Friday, October 28, 2005

Indictments today

   Before I head out of the door, CNN is reporting via sources that Karl Rove will not be indicted today, but is likely to remain under investigation, and Scooter Libby may be indicted today, probably on perjury charges arising from his testimony before the grand jury.

   Stay tuned.

Good News

   The Detroit News this morning reports an encouraging development from the University of Michigan:

Medical researchers at the University of Michigan have identified a likely cause of prostate cancer they say could lead to more effective treatments and possibly a cure.

Scientists have discovered a recurring pattern of scrambled chromosomes that causes certain genes to merge -- an abnormal gene activity occurring only in prostate cancer, the leading cancer diagnosis for men in the United States. An estimated 232,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be reported this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Identifying the specific genes involved may now lead to a new, more accurate test -- of the blood or urine -- to detect prostate cancer, and possibly more effective methods of treatment, said Dr. Arul M. Chinnaiyan, the U-M pathology professor who directed the research. The closer medical researchers are to nailing down a cause, the closer they are to finding its cure, he said.

Well done, Wolverines. Keep up the good work.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Deathless Prose of Harriet Miers

   In the final act of her nomination to the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers demonstrated in a concrete way just how unqualified for the position she really was. Her letter to President Bush stating her withdrawal - a mere four paragraphs - was awash with grammatical and stylistic errors. It leads one to wonder what a substantial Miers opinion would have looked like, and what a mess it would have created for those of us expected to decipher such things.

   I have made some fairly basic corrections below, though there were some things that I could not even touch without materially altering the meaning of the letter.

Dear Mr. President:

I write to withdraw as a nominee to serve as an Associate Justice on to the Supreme Court of the United States. I have been greatly honored and humbled by the confidence that you have shown in me, and have appreciated immensely your support and the support of many others. However, I am concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and our its staff that is not in the best interest of the country.

As you know, members of the Senate have indicated their intentions to seek documents about my service in the White House in order to judge whether to support me. I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy. While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will would continue.

As I stated in my acceptance remarks in the Oval Office, the strength and independence of our three branches of government are critical to the continued success of this great Nation. Repeatedly in the course of the process of confirmation during the confirmation process for nominees for to other positions, I have steadfastly maintained that in order for the independence of the Executive Branch to be preserved, and its confidential documents and information must not be released to further a confirmation process. I feel compelled to adhere to this position, especially related to my own nomination. Protection The protection of the prerogatives of the Executive Branch's prerogatives and the continued pursuit of my confirmation are in tension;. I have decided that seeking my confirmation should yield.

I share your commitment to appointing judges with a conservative judicial philosophy, and I look forward to continuing to support your efforts to provide the American people with judges who will interpret the law, not make it. I am most grateful for having had the opportunity to have served serve your Administration and this country.

Most respectfully,

Harriet Ellan Miers

Consider this "Exhibit A" of my argument that her nomination was never intended to proceed. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Private School Orders Student Blogs Down

   I'm all for keeping kids safe from Internet predators, but this is absolutely ridiculous:

A Roman Catholic high school has ordered its students to remove their online diaries from the Internet, citing a threat from cyberpredators.

Students at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta appear to be heeding a directive from the principal, the Rev. Kieran McHugh.

McHugh told them in an assembly earlier this month to remove any personal journals they might have or risk suspension. Web sites popular with teens include myspace.com and xanga.com.

Officials with the Diocese of Paterson say the directive is a matter of safety, not censorship. No one has been disciplined yet, said Marianna Thompson, a diocesan spokeswoman.

She said the ban has been on the books for five years but is only now being strictly enforced. Thompson said students aren't being silenced but rather told that they cannot post online writings about school or their personal lives.

Where are the parents, you ask? Oh, they're complicit in this overreach, having signed away this parental prerogative to direct their teens' Internet use:

Thompson said parents of students who enroll in the schools sign contracts governing student behavior, including responsible Internet use.

"Responsible" use? Funny. I bet they have a similar rule regarding students' "responsible use" of condoms away from the school grounds.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Project

   A few days ago, I alluded to a personal project that has been keeping me pretty busy lately. A few words on the project follow:

   Over the last couple of weeks, I have been researching the laws concerning sexual harassment in Massachusetts. The idea was inspired by a case I worked on last spring. The upshot of what I have found is a little unsettling: the Massachusetts state sexual harassment laws present very real difficulties for certain classes of plaintiffs in seeking relief. This concern does not affect all sexual harassment plaintiffs, or even anything approaching a majority, but it does affect a discrete (and widespread) group of potential claimants.

   Since the research is still in the early stages, I really don't want to say much more about it (especially since I set out on this project in the hopes of having the end result published). (Okay, I'm dying to share it, but prudence dictates that I exercise a measure of restraint.) But, I can say a few very general things at the outset.

   These laws pose difficulties for certain plaintiffs, who run substantial risks of having their claims thrown out of court. This is largely due to a series of laws that were cobbled together to form what today passes for statutory regulation of this kind of misconduct. Due to the relative recency of the current law's passage, and perhaps to the real danger that some of these plaintiffs will have claims dismissed well before reaching trial, there is little (if anything) written on this topic and there have been no state appellate court cases (and, hence, no reported precedents) addressing the exact point of concern undergirding my project.

   I still have a long way to go, but I hope to start writing the first draft soon. I'll keep you posted as things move along.

No Quarter

   It appears - if nothing else - that Scooter Libby may have committed obstruction of justice in his testimony before the grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame's identity.

   "Treasongate", it seems (for now, at least), is probably only Perjurygate (if that).

   By this, I don't mean to diminish the gravity of misleading a prosecutor, but rather to note the vast distance between a crime for which the highest penalty is death, and one for which a year or so in prison is closer to the norm.

   Indeed, I have absolutely no tolerance for those who would play forbidden games with the fact-finding processes of the legal system. (In my line of work, wasting the time, money, and human resources of involved parties angers me more than just about anything.)

   If the facts bear out that Scooter Libby, or anyone else for that matter, lied to Special Prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald (or even unwittingly led him around the proverbial garden path), then the culpable persons need to quit the White House and ensure that their doors not hit them on the way out.

   I was unwilling to countenance Clinton's attempts to obstruct justice; I was unwilling to overlook Martha Stewart's attempts to do the same; I will be unforgiving of those indicted for attempting to do so here. Where I would normally sit back and wait for all the evidence, the cases here are just too easy to make if they are all like Scooter Libby's. I'm not inclined to think that they all will be, but I suspect a fair number will be fairly straightforward.

   I have heard some defenses from my side of the aisle that demostrate tenuous reasoning when read in full and hypocrisy when condensed into sound-bite length:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) outlined the strategy on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, when moderator Tim Russert asked her whether White House spokesman Scott McClellan's previous denials that anyone in the administration had anything to do with the leak of covert operative Valerie Plame's name to the media lacked credibility.

"Tim, you know, I think we have to remember something here," Hutchinson admonished. "An indictment of any kind is not a guilty verdict, and I do think we have in this country the right to go to court and have due process and be innocent until proven guilty. And secondly, I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. So they go to something that trips someone up because they said something in the first grand jury and then maybe they found new information or they forgot something and they tried to correct that in a second grand jury.

"I think we should be very careful here, especially as we are dealing with something very public and people's lives in the public arena. I do not think we should prejudge. I think it is unfair to drag people through the newspapers week after week after week, and let's just see what the charges are. Let's tone down the rhetoric and let's make sure that if there are indictments that we don't prejudge."

   But, if those on the Right can't have it both ways, then neither can those on the Left; fair is fair, after all. Shifting the issues here to preserve the present moral (and political) highground serves no one well. Even assuming for sake of argument that the adminstration lied about everything in the run-up to the Iraq War (an argument that I think is still rather less than ironclad, but I'll indulge it for sake of demonstration), this case is no more about about that deception than Clinton's was about oral sex. (I might argue that it is even less so, but I am really short on time.)

   It's about how someone acts before a grand jury. Under oath.

   It's about how one individual seeks to subvert the judicial process and - by extension - We, the People.

   I don't really care what the subject of the investigation is. Tell the truth (or plead the Fifth, if that option is available), but deceiving a grand jury -- regardless of reason -- is simply never an option.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

   I'm putting off tonight's posts in honor of Rosa Parks, whose passing was announced just minutes ago. What I had planned to say here tonight can wait until the morning.

   In these polarized times, it's fitting to take a moment to remember an American who is remembered almost universally by history as an asset to our people.

Programming Note

   I had planned on updating this morning before walking out of the door, but I have been watching the coverage of Hurricane Wilma. My parents are in Florida right now and while (thankfully) they seem to have been spared the worst of it, I will feel much better when the storm has headed out over the Atlantic later today. Charley is still just a little too vivid in my memory.

   Look this evening for a post on why I am growing more convinced that the Harriet Miers nomination was an intentional non-starter from the outset. I have alluded to it a couple of times here and elsewhere, and it seems to be growing a little more clear.

   Also, look for an update on the project I alluded to last week.

   Lastly, I think the Wolverines are going to kill me before the season is over. A second straight last-play win? Twenty-six is far too young to be felled by a massive coronary.