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This and That

October 4th, 2005

Some unrelated bits and pieces for today.

Bush’s choice for the replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor is drawing reactions as confusing as the choice itself. The candidate is Harriet Miers, White House counsel.Democratic Senator Harry Reid is said to have urged Bush to select her. She has no experience, zero, as a jurist, and has never argued a case before a high court, Supreme or appellate. She’s not a constitutional scholar. She started work for the Bush White House as a deputy chief of staff but also as a staff secretary. She has no paper trail. She’s a Bush loyalist and crony. The Republicans don’t like her, at least on the surface and on first glance. Bush chose someone without a paper trail, a cipher, which is usually a move which indicates that he’s got a rabid conservative but wants to hide it so he can get an easy confirmation. Or it could be he’s doing whatever he can to avoid a fight now that he’s very weak. Miers apparently thinks that Bush is the most brilliant man that she’s ever met.

What in the name of hell is going on here? There’s obviously a lot we don’t know. Speculation at this point is pointless. Stay tuned.

Though I sold my old TiBook (which got replaced by my new AlBook), the ads persist for a while and now I am getting far more enquiries than I was before I sold it. One of them came from a guy in, believe it or not, Nigeria, telling me that his laptop broke and he needs me to ship mine to him right away. I don’t know what his scam was, but hell, a guy from Nigeria, world capital of email fraud, wants me to ship him my PowerBook? I don’t care what “safe” payment plan he has. And maybe he really is legit. But I’d have to be stupid to take the chance, even if I still had the computer to sell. Which makes me figure that those 419 scammers have ruined anyone trying to do business from that country–probably no one wants to do business with anyone operating from there anymore.

Check out Firefly. It’s really good. Weird how Fox (whose entertainment branch does a decent job, apparently not at all connected to the News branch) aired the series’ episodes completely out of order, showing the 2-hour pilot episode last and not even airing 3 of the 14 episodes made. Like with the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (the ones with Sean Patrick Flanery as the teen Indy, not the episodes with boy Indy), when ABC kept changing days and times, taking it off the air for weeks or months and then airing a few episodes here or there. Sometimes networks seem intent on sabotaging good shows. Cancel Dark Angel after two seasons and run dreck shows for three times as long? And Futurama, even after five years, what the hell were they thinking canceling that?

Anyway, it has me wanting to see the new flick Serenity, though, as usual, it’s all mucked up for Japan, which might not get the film at all.

Paramount has semi-left the Toshiba HD-DVD camp and says they’ll support both HD-DVD and Sony’s Blu-Ray. That makes a majority of major studios siding with Blu-Ray, along with Apple and the greater number of corporations, though Microsoft and Intel recently signed on to the HD-DVD ticket. Disney, Columbia (owned by Sony), and 20th Century Fox are on the Blu-Ray ticket, which Warner Bros. and Universal still are on the HD-DVD side, though Warner Bros. is expected to follow Paramount’s move and put one foot in the Blu-Ray camp also, thus weakening HD-DVD that much further. It may even prompt Universal to follow as well, and that could be the beginning of the end of HD-DVD.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are the next-generation DVD players designed for HDTV content. Current DVDs store from 4.7 to 8.5 GB on a single side, which is not enough for the new high-definition media. The new DVD formats use higher-wavelength blue lasers to pack more data into a disc the same size as today’s DVDs. Toshiba’s HD-DVD can save 15 to 30 GB on a single side (single- or dual-layered), while Sony’s Blu-Ray can save 25 to 50 GB (single- or dual-layered, though a 4-layer version could get as much as 100 GB on one side). The two formats are incompatible, making this to be a fight along the lines of the 1980’s VHS vs. Betamax struggle, which (of course) Sony’s Betamax lost due to Victor’s decision to open-source the VHS standard. Beta was introduced in 1975, by the way, and conceded defeat as late as 1988, 13 years later. Know anyone with a Betamax machine?

Sony looks to be the winner this time, though–despite the fact that HD-DVD was designed for easy manufacturers’ upgrade to existing DVD production technology, Blu-Ray offers more features and better speed in addition to more capacity. And while HD-DVD was supposed to get an early start, they had to delay the release of their product so it gets released about the same time as Blu-Ray. In addition, Sony is going to include Blu-Ray in the next version of the popular PlayStation video game player, which will pump up production and bring prices down faster. And Sony got the jump on selling Blu-Ray machines here in Japan.

But there’s still a heated argument over which side is going to win. Hard to say, but as you could tell in this writing, I have a feeling that Blu-Ray is going to come out the winner.

Update: Intel, which last week jumped on the side of HD-DVD, is now wavering, saying that it may also put one foot into the Blu-Ray camp, if Blu-Ray can deliver a certain kind of copying technology.

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  1. Tim Kane
    October 5th, 2005 at 02:17 | #1

    Bush has an unmistakable allegaince to his surrogate nannies: Karen Hughes and Condaleeza Rice, perhaps Meir’s is another one of these surrogate nannies.

  2. ykw
    October 5th, 2005 at 03:24 | #2

    I think Meirs is pro life, and is conservative like bush, else she would not be where she is.

    Also, I think the conservatives who are kicking up fuss over this are trying to trick the liberals into thinking she is ok.

    I don’t think she should be confirmed, due to a lack
    of track record.

    This is going to be a major fight.

  3. ranger
    October 5th, 2005 at 06:18 | #3

    It’s not so weird she has never been a judge. In the 1950’s, Earl Warren was nominated as Chief Justice, and he was Govenor of California.

    She’ll get confirmed. If not, Bush may have trouble finding a solid replacement.

  4. BlogD
    October 5th, 2005 at 11:28 | #4

    At least Warren was a practicing lawyer and then District Attorney and argued many cases over the course of a few decades, then was attorney general for a few years. Miers never even argued a single case in court from what I hear.

  5. ranger
    October 5th, 2005 at 22:45 | #5

    Ok, fair enough. But you say she’s not a constitutional scholar and she’s never argued a case before court. I can’t take this information as fact. Back it up, please.

  6. BlogD
    October 6th, 2005 at 09:55 | #6

    Ah. Forgive me. While I find nothing stating that she argued a case in court, the sources I was quoting said she has never argued before the Supreme Court or even an appellate court. My error; I stand corrected, and I have amended the post accordingly. Nevertheless, it changes little; she has no experience as a jurist, has no experience in constitutional law; issues relating to the Supreme Court are hardly related to being a business executive running a law firm. It’s like looking for someone to be a chancellor of a university and choosing someone who taught in kindergarten.

  7. ranger
    October 6th, 2005 at 10:56 | #7

    Well, I find it hard to believe that the White House Counsel has never studied Constitutional law. I’ll take your word for it, but I’m curious has to how she even became counsel.

    I realize that I didn’t give the best example. BUT, Warren only got the nomination because he backed out of the primaries, allowing Eisenhower to get it. You’re right, no one has had that little experience as Miers, and that was clear as soon as Bush nominated her. My point was that some of the greatest justices who have sat the court have had little experience

  8. BlogD
    October 6th, 2005 at 11:18 | #8

    I understand. However, that would stand only as a possible exception, not the rule. Simply because someone like Earl Warren turned out well is not really evidence that Miers will, only that it is possible. I would readily concede that, but I would not concede that there is any evidence that Miers will not turn out to be another Clarence Thomas, only with even less experience.

  9. ed
    October 6th, 2005 at 14:17 | #9

    I doubt that she has not studied constitutional law. It is on the BAR exam for one, and is required at all ABA accredited law schools. She is 60 years old which means she probably finished law school no earlier than 1965 or so
    (I don’t know her educational history that well other than where she went to school.) By the mid 1960s she most certainly would have had to study Con Law.

    You do not need to be an expert in Constitutional law to be a qualified Justice any more than you need to be an expert in tax, or antitrust or securities law. Justices of the Supreme Court hear cases in many areas they are not expert. It is their job to do the research to become expert so that they can rule on any particular case before the Court.

    The reality is that as a new judge and a new Associate Justice of the Supreme Court any person nominated would have a lot of learning to do even if that person was already a federal judge. Even John Roberts will have some learning to do when it comes to learning the Courts jurisprudence. Miers is going to have to learn a lot of Supreme Court law while on the job because she has not been a judge.

    I am neutral on whether I want her confirmed. I do not know anything about her. I am not sure why Democratic leaders are so pleased, since they do not know much about her either. Maybe they are pleased because she simply has not been an activist and does not bring a clear agenda to the job the way some other potential nominees do.

    I would be very surprised if she is not confirmed despite her inexperience. The only way she will not be confirmed is if some information is revealed about her that makes her candidacy no longer viable. I think a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans and loyal Republicans would vote to confirm her at the very least.

    Senator Lott said it best when he pointed out that she is clearly not the most the qualified for this position. There are many men, women, and minorities who are far more qualified for this position, Lott pointed out. He’s absoultely right, I think.

    But she is QUALIFIED, just not the most qualified for this job. But one thing is clear this is cronyism and the President should be careful. He’s not the only President to nominate a close friend but in recent times Presidents had gotten away from doing this.

  10. Luis
    October 6th, 2005 at 19:07 | #10

    I would much prefer that we got people who were already practiced in the area of constitutional law so we know how expert they can become. With a position so absolutely vital to all of our lives and our freedoms, why are so many people willing to accept someone without sterling credentials? If you invested money in a corporation, would you agree to hire as CEO a person with little or no experience in management and business? Or would you look for someone who is experienced, practiced and proven? Would it satisfy you that an inexperienced and untested person would “study to be an expert” in the CEO position? I think not, not by a long shot. Sure, it’s possible that an untested maverick could be the best thing, but I seriously doubt that you would want to bet your life savings on it.

    Maybe we’re just used to people without qualifications getting the most powerful jobs in government, perhaps we just have too low expectations for people in those positions, or maybe we feel distanced enough that we’d be willing to experiment and see what would happen without feeling at risk of losing anything seriously ourselves. It may be something else, but if it is one of the three I mentioned, I think it would be a horrible mistake. This nominee could be the deciding vote on Roe v. Wade, on personal privacy and campaign reform, on the power of the federal government to infringe on your constitutional rights, for religion to seep into your schools and courthouses… so much is at stake, we cannot take this lightly. If Bush is going to nominate a right-winger and we have to eat it, then at the very least I want a damned well-qualified, solid right-wing justice.

  11. cc
    October 6th, 2005 at 23:41 | #11

    Chief Justice Rehnquist is an example of someone who was not a judge prior to being on the Supreme Court. He was a lawyer, yes, but also had a political career as an assistant attorney general under Nixon. Miers is a lawyer who had a role as a legal counsel to the President. Hmmm. So what makes her so bad?

  12. BlogD
    October 7th, 2005 at 00:31 | #12

    What makes you think that I approved of Rehnquist? He was nominated by Nixon as a young and therefore long-staying hard-core conservative, but at least he clerked for a SC justice, giving him a bit more than Miers. But Rehnquist is simply another example of someone who was not top-rate, but rather a political placement. Like I said, if the justice will be a hardcore conservative, then at the very least let it be someone who’s qualified for the job.

  13. ed
    October 7th, 2005 at 05:56 | #13

    I think your analogy to business does not work. Law is different.

    It is not as though Miers is not a lawyer, which, believe it or not, is not a requirement to be a Supreme Court Justice by the way.

    Furthermore your CEO analogy does not work because a third of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are Lawyers rather than Managers.

    I would think Miers has practiced law and is expert in some areas of the law just not Constitutional Law.

    Having trial experience is not necessary either.
    One of the foremost experts on Constitutional law, Yale Law School professor Akhil Amar has never even taken the Bar Exam so certainly has never tried a case in Court either but he would be Qualified if not Extremely Qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice.

    Lawyers have their strengths and areas of expertise. I am not sure what kinds of cases she has worked on but she probably knows some area of the law pretty well.

    There are brilliant lawyers and law professors out there who are not constitutional law experts per se. Some are experts at Criminal law, Tax Law, Tort Law, Contracts, or Corporations or Antitrust. Many of these would be more far more qualified than Miers.

    Remember that everyone who becomes a Federal Judge must move from just being a lawyer to being a judge. Some federal judges are not Constitutional law experts when they arrive on the bench. It is just that Miers is making the leap from lawyer to the Highest bench. It is a big leap and she will have a lot of work to do.

    I have already said that she is not the most qualified. There are probably hundreds of people who are easily more qualified than Miers.

    But she is QUALIFIED. She is not especially qualified and there are probably partners at huge NY law firms who know that they could wipe the floor with her and yet would not even be considered for the job.

    IF by Qualified, you mean a foremost expert in some area of the law, then the answer is no, she is not. But I do not define it that way. Maybe that should be the requirement. I wish that were the requirement but it is not.

    I think the President could have made a better choice no matter what he was trying to accomplish with the pick. If he wanted to avoid a showdown and also pick a woman there are easily 20 women he could have chosen who are more qualified than Miers and who would have been acceptable to Democrats and Republicans alike.

    So why he chose a crony, I am not sure. I guess he did not want to pick a Souter but he also wanted to avoid a fight so he chose a loyalist figuring that she would not embarass him by becoming one of the Court’s reliably liberal votes like Souter rather than a moderate/conservative. Laura Bush may have also asked him to choose Miers. Bush probably figures that at worst she will be another a Kennedy, a sometimes moderate, who is more conservative than O’Connor and if he is lucky she’ll be a Rehnquist or Scalia type judge.

  14. BlogD
    October 7th, 2005 at 12:12 | #14

    I think your analogy to business does not work … Furthermore your CEO analogy does not work because a third of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are Lawyers rather than Managers.So are inexperienced, unproven Lawyers made CEOs of Fortune 500 companies? I believe the analogy does work.
    Having trial experience is not necessary either. One of the foremost experts on Constitutional law, Yale Law School professor Akhil Amar has never even taken the Bar Exam so certainly has never tried a case in Court either but he would be Qualified if not Extremely Qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice.Such a case would be exceptional, in that such a professor would have such knowledge and experience in law that would be commensurate to or in excess of that gained by practicing in court. Which does not apply in any way to Harriet Miers.
    There are brilliant lawyers and law professors out there who are not constitutional law experts per se. Some are experts at Criminal law, Tax Law, Tort Law, Contracts, or Corporations or Antitrust. Many of these would be more far more qualified than Miers.How? How would an expert in Tax Law be qualified as a Supreme Court Justice when the job calls for being an expert in Constitutional Law? Are we back to the “she’ll become an expert” idea? If you wanted to hire someone to build your house, would you choose someone who constructed children’s toys on the concept that they built things and could “become an expert” in building homes?
    Remember that everyone who becomes a Federal Judge must move from just being a lawyer to being a judge. Some federal judges are not Constitutional law experts when they arrive on the bench.Again, so? Shouldn’t they be? Should we allow inexperienced people on the highest bench simply because we allow them on appellate benches? How about raising the standards instead of lowering them?
    But she is QUALIFIED.On what grounds? Just because she’s a lawyer? No, you negated that before. Because she’s an expert in constitutional law? No, you negated that, too. So what’s the qualification? That she can learn? As far as I can see, that’s the only qualification you impose. And forgive me if I say that that is way, way too low a bar to set.

    Here’s a question: how do you feel about racial quotas? Because most conservatives (though I am not sure that you are one) believe that one of its biggest flaws is that while it requires hirees to be minimally qualified, it forces employers to sometimes choose people who are not the most qualified. But from your writing I can safely assume that this is not how you feel. Yes?

  15. ed
    October 7th, 2005 at 22:14 | #15

    I think you misunderstood some of what I wrote.

    But first of all, racial quotas are illegal and have been so for over 25 years. So my opinion on them is that they are illegal.

    Now to the other issues:

    It is not my view that you do not need to be a lawyer in order to be a federal judge. I was merely pointing out that the Constitution does not require the President to select a lawyer when he nominates someone to be a federal judge or Justice of the Supreme Court.

    My view is that of course a person needs to have legal training and legal expertise in order to be a federal judge or Justice of the Supreme Court.

    My point is that Harriet Miers is a lawyer who has years of experience handling legal matters. That’s my understanding of her record. She was partner at a law firm so she did practice law and represented George W. Bush before and after he became Governor of Texas.

    It sounds to me that are not a lawyer yourself.
    I just graduated from law school in May.

    I can tell you that a brilliant tax lawyer is most certainly qualified to be a federal judge.

    Being a Supreme Court Justice involves far more than being an expert on Constitutional law issues.

    Supreme Court Justices hear cases on criminal law, tort law, environmental law, intellectual property, tax, antitrust, you name it.

    So being an expert on Tax Law would be helpful if hearing a Tax case. Oftentimes lawyers are expert in a few areas.

    A big part of being a lawyer, any type of lawyer, is the analytical process. “Thinking like a lawyer”. Being a lawyer is not about what you know (Con Law, for example) it’s about “knowing how”. It’s about knowing how to evaluate a legal question and resolve it.

    Harriet Miers has practiced law for 27 years. During that time she has evaluated many legal questions I’m sure.

    I think 27 years of successful private practice is sufficient legal experience to be a federal judge.

    Just because I might be a tax attorney or criminal lawyer does not mean that I do not understand Con Law. Oftentimes various areas of the law intersect. It might be necessary as a criminal lawyer or a tax lawyer to address a Con Law issue in order to win the case for your client.

    I just graduated from law school. Imagine if President Bush appointed me to be a Supreme Court Justice. There would be an uproar of course. But the reason I am not qualified is that I have not had enough experience evaluating legal problems. I do not yet have the skills necessary to sit on the high court.

    It is conceivable that I could know more about Con Law than Harriet Miers does right now because it is not her particular area of expertise but that does not make me more qualified than Miers. Miers knows a hell of a lot more than me about how to resolve a complex legal matter. She has done it over and over in the course of 27 years I’m sure.

    A good judge knows how to evaluate complex legal matters well. No judge knows all areas of the law well. Even Chief Justice John Roberts might not know much about intellectual property for example but if a case came before the Court he knows how to evaluate a complex legal matter. He would have to do extensive research on the particular area to resolve the case. That’s what Justices do. They read thousands of pages per day from what I understand. They do this because many cases come before them where they do not know enough about the area of the law to rule on the case without first learning about it.

    I think the President has chosen someone who is qualified, in Harriet Miers, but there are many people who are even more qualified.

    If the president wanted to pick a conservative female judge, there were a number of federal judges who he could have chosen or even state supreme Court judges.

    This was not the best choice. I have said that over and over. I just do not think it is fair to say that she is not qualified.

    She is qualified but she is not the best choice. Neither was Clarence Thomas. He’s become a disgrace. It’s a real dishonor to the man whose seat he holds. Thomas sleeps during oral argument. He’s what happens when this thing becomes to politicized.

    It seems to me that Democrats do not have a real Court agenda in the way the Republicans do, so in some ways it is easier for Democratic Presidents to select judges and less likely that they will pick an imebicile simply because he or she adheres to a certain ideological view.

    All Dems have to do is pick someone who is not a left winger. That’s not hard to do because Democratic party is not ruled by its left wing right now, while the Republican party is so that’s what complicates matters for Bush. Most democratic judicial nominees will not be left wingers because they do not have to be.

    Bush on the other hand probably selected a crony because he trusts her to be conservative. He probably asked her frankly not to let him down and become a liberal judge on the Court

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