Press "Enter" to skip to content

Two at the Federalist Society

Richard Sanders

Richard Sanders

You may recall the news brief from last week about Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, who while delivering a speech in Washington collapsed - lost consciousness - and was rushed to a hospital. Reports indicate he has fully recovered since. Which would not occasion a post here, except for an incident that preceded the collapse, and where the speech was delivered.

The speech was delivered on the one-year anniversary of the department of Mukasey's predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, and was a strongly-worded endorsement of the Bush Administration's expansion of assumed powers in areas of habeas corpus, torture, eavesdropping and others: "I am afraid what we hear is a chorus with a rather more dissonant refrain. Instead of appreciation, or even a fair appraisal, of the Administration’s accomplishments, we have heard relentless criticism of the very policies that have helped keep us safe."

The New York Times reported that "There was no immediate indication of the cause of his collapse" toward the end of the address, but some in the audience pointed to one - a verbal riposte from someone in the audience, about 15 minutes before the collapse. Several witnesses said that a person at one of the tables exclaimed, "Tyrant! You are a tyrant!"

That person - though he maintains that he exclaimed only the word "tyrant!," then left - turned out to be a judge: Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders. Sanders today acknowledged his commentary, and released a memo on it. An excerpt:

Mr. Mukasey said those who criticize the Administration for abandoning provisions of the Geneva Conventions fail to recognize that “... Al Qaeda [is] an international terrorist group, and not, the last time I checked, a signatory to the Conventions.” Although the United States is a signatory, and these Conventions prohibit torture, the audience laughed. Attorney General Mukasey received a standing ovation. I passionately disagree with these views: the government must never set aside the Constitution; domestic and international law forbids torture; and access to the writ of habeas corpus should not be denied.

The program provided no opportunity for questions or response, and I felt compelled to speak out. I stood up, and said, “tyrant,” and then left the meeting. No one else said anything. I believe we must speak our conscience in moments that demand it, even if we are but one voice.

The group to which Mukasey was speaking, and from which Sanders excused himself, was the Federalist Society, as Sanders said, "a conservative and libertarian legal group of which I am a member." It is also more, a very powerful interest group which has had great sway over the selection of federal judicial appointees; prominent members have included Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Jr. and Samuel Alito, who you might recall are now on the U.S. Supreme Court. Its members have often, widely, been big supporters of the Bush Administration and its expansive approaches.

It was a hotter group in times of Republican hegemony. On Friday, the Washington Post led an article on the group this way: "Last year, there was a candlelight dinner at sold-out, shut-down Union Station to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Federalist Society, with President Bush on stage and three Supreme Court justices in the audience. This year, it's 'welcome to the wilderness,' as a former Clinton administration appointee good-naturedly told the group of lawyers yesterday at its annual meeting."

But Sanders' reaction at the dinner could presage something more: Some emerging differences of opinion about what a conservative interpretation of the law ought to be. Ad that might be a thought enough to make more than a few Bush Administration supporters among the Federalist society more than a little woozy.

WA/OR: The Obama percentage

Very possibly someone else somewhere has made note of it, but we can't recall seeing it anywhere, and merits some mention here regardless:

Turns out that the percentage of the vote Democrat Barack Obama received this month in Washington (57.6%) and in Oregon (56.8%) was the highest any presidential candidate has received since Lyndon Johnson (whose numbers were 62% in Washington and 63.7% in Oregon) in 1964. Higher than Clinton, Reagan, Nixon/72. He was the most popular presidential candidate in those states in the last 44 years. Duly noted.

Boise and Micron

Credit the Idaho Statesman with running the kind of hard-headed business analysis piece that dares to make their readers go gulp - apart from their morning coffee . . .

The article asks the question, Is Micron Technology on track to phase down or out of Boise? There aren't any definitive answers, as there couldn't reasonably be (barring an abrupt blast of sunlight from within Micron corporate leadership). But the relevant factors and the parameters and possibilities are cleanly laid out. (At least one very long-time economic consultant of our acquaintance, Richard Slaughter, is quoted: "Micron is likely to go away.")

A necessary read, for those interested in Boise's (and Idaho's) near-term economic future.

Behind the ‘assasination’ chanters

After the news story broke about the young school bus riders at Rexburg chanting "assassinate Obama" there were a few comments from that area - one thoughtful statement from the mayor, for example - about how wrong it was, and how people in the area need to think hard about where the mentality behind this came from.

That subject has come up on a Huckleberries blog post (Dave Oliveria, blogger) and most interestingly in the comments section. The whole thing is recommended reading, but two quotes beg for pulling . . . One from a teacher in the Rexburg area:

Before the election, I constantly heard horrible, negative remarks about Obama. Things like babykiller, he is black, he is stupid, he doesn't deserve to win, my parents will move out of the country if he wins, and worst of all, he is a democrat. I often heard from students that he should be shot before he gets in office. It sickened me but at the time I thought that they were just trying to get to me because of my Obama sticker on my desk. Seriously, what 8th grader cares about politics? Most don't pay attention in class anyway so I wonder where they hear these things? Believe it or not, most people in this town have money--enough money to have a newspaper, internet, satellite or cable. However, most of my students cannot do assignments that involve the news because they do not get the newspaper, have a TV in the house, or the internet. It is not just a few random students but many. Some students come to school to take band, orchestra or a math class (not to mention Seminary) and then are home schooled the rest of the day. It is a fallacy if the kids are learning it from someone other than their families.

And this one from a Rupert-area resident:

I've seen it before, and although it saddens me, I am not surprised. There are some VERY narrow-minded people in that part of the state.

The big difference - in North Idaho people with that kind of view are more likely to be "white trash" or "anti-government hillbillies." People who dress in camo, have jacked up pickups, etc etc. I mean no offense, just trying to form a picture.

But in SE Idaho, that point of view is attached to bankers, church leaders, and others in the "professional" class. The squeaky clean people. And that is far scarier.

Pierce Republicans

Pierce County council

Pierce County Council

Washington's Pierce County has some of the hottest politics going for those who enjoy watching the unpredictable. It has emerged as Washington's key swing county.

Its raw numbers are significant - it is the second largest county in the Northwest, behind only King. Its key central city, Tacoma, is solidly Democratic, but accounts for less than a third of the county's population, and the rest is widely variable. Pierce went for Democrats for most of the major offices - for president, for governor, for U.S. House, all candidates winning decisively around the state.

Below that, things get more complex. Pierce voted for the losing Republicans for lands commissioner (incumbent Doug Sutherland) and treasurer (Allan Martin). It also voted for Republican Rob McKenna for attorney general, which - since McKenna won strongly overall - wouldn't be a big deal except that his Democratic challenger, John Ladenburg is the current Pierce County executive. And a string of Pierce-area legislative seats were hotly contested and very close.

The race to replace Ladenburg has been heated and very close. Evidently - and based on current run-throughs of the county's ranked voting formula - Democrat Pat McCarthy seems to have defeated Republican Shawn Bunney, but only 50.7% to 49.3%.

And there's this: Pierce has a seven-member county council, and five of its members are Republicans; the two Democrats are based closely on Tacoma. One of them, Tim Farrell, "half-jokingly said he sees himself as 'the leader of the resistance' on a council with a Republican supermajority. Farrell said he works well with chairman Terry Lee, Dick Muri and Shawn Bunney. He described them as moderate Republicans. But he fears a Republican supermajority could lead to a shift to more conservative policies."

The closest in Idaho

We'll give the award for closest general election result this year - possibly not statistically, but in raw numbers - to the contest for Washington County (Idaho, not Oregon) sheriff.

Incumbent Republican Melvin Williams defeated Democratic challenger Scott Crimin by one vote - 2,125 to 2,124. One more time: Don't ever let anyone tell you a single vote doesn't matter.

That's lot tighter than the commission race over in Clark County (Idaho), where Republican William Frederiksen beat Democrat Ernest Sill by five votes (out of 373 cast in the race; it's the smallest county in the Northwest). And there were, to be sure, just two state legislative decided by fewer than 1,000 votes, both involving Democratic incumbents, one who survived (Brandon Durst in Boise, 431 votes) and one who lost (Jerry Shively in Idaho Falls, 270 votes).

Layoffs by the number

Others could be doing this in other states too, usefully: The Seattle Times now has up a database of layoff announcements from this year around Washington state.

The list covers layoff announcements of at least 20 jobs each.

The database shows eight such announcements in October, with job cuts upward of 1,700. (Remember that these are are only private and only those done in batches of 20 or more.) November has five such announcements involving somewhat over 600 jobs; but there's time left in the month.

“It’s a joke”

Not really news, other than that what you have here is a substantial public figure speaking utterly honestly about the dark underside.

A USA Today article about the maneuvers that keep many college athletes in classes and even headed to graduation, but in the weakest possible classes, includes a quote from Boise State University football player Marty Tadman: "You're going to school so you can stay in sports. You're not going for a degree. ... It's a joke."

An "A" for ouch.

Remapping already (congressional)

Yes of course - congressional (and legislative) reapportionment won't happen until after 2010, and after the next general election. But now, with this 2008 election under out belts, we actually have enough raw material to work with to evaluate how congressional-level reapportionment might play out in another two and a half years or so.

For one thing, we have what looks like a stabilizing political picture in most places around the Northwest - after some years of change, the partisan balances for most races changed less this election than in the last, or even the election before that. That's no guarantee of the future, of course, but some reason to be believe that areas running generally Democratic or Republican now may not change enormously in the near term.

The economic slowdown is a relevant factor too, since population growth is likely to slow, relatively locking into place a number of existing patterns.

So what might we be looking at?

First, mostly the number of congressional seats we have now. Idaho is almost certain to stay at two seats after 2010 (though if growth picks back up, a third in the round after that may be realistic). Washington is closer to a gain of one seat, though the odds look less than even. Oregon is a close call, though, and various studies have estimated it just within or just outside the margin for a one-seat pickup. It's close enough that we probably can't know with any certainty until after the census is in.

Given all that, what might the legislatures and governors in the three states do about divvying the districts? (more…)