As Vaughn Walker Moves On, There Are No Replacements

As you have probably heard by now, Vaughn Walker, the Chief Judge for the Northern District of California, has announced his retirement:

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California announces today that Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker will step down as chief judge effective December 31, 2010. Also, Chief Judge Walker notified President Obama by letter today that he will leave the court in February 2011.

Chief Judge Walker has been a United States District Judge since February 5, 1990 and has served as chief judge of the court since September 1, 2004. Before becoming a federal judge, Chief Judge Walker was a litigation partner at the firm now known as Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. Upon leaving the federal bench, Chief Judge Walker plans to return to the private sector.

In his letter to the President, Chief Judge Walker said: ““Concluding twenty one years of judicial service, I leave the bench with the highest respect and regard for the federal judiciary, its judges and their staff and the essential role they fulfill in our constitutional system.””

By statute, United States district chief judges are selected based on a combination of age, seniority and experience and may serve in the post for a maximum of seven years. 28 USC § 136. By application of this statute, District Judge James Ware will assume the post of chief judge of the Northern District on January 1, 2011.

That was the formal announcement I received from Walker’s chambers. For further reportage, see the always outstanding Bay area legal reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bob Egelko. (I will take issue with one thing Egelko reported though, that Walker’s announcement was “unexpected”; I have heard rumors of him retiring at the end of the year for several months now.)

I started to write this post last night with a million thoughts swirling in my head on the plethora of important cases Walker has handled over the years and erudite opinions rendered thereon. There is far more to the man’s record than al-Haramain and Perry v. Schwarzenegger; he also sat on such blockbuster cases as the Hearst/ SF Chronicle Antitrust litigation, the Apple/Microsoft intellectual property battle, and the knock down drag out Oracle/Peoplesoft takeover war. And hundreds of others over the years that, from every opinion of his I have read over the last couple of decades, he treated with pretty much the same dedication and attention to detail as you see in the landmark cases you know him from now. Vaughn Walker was both driven and meticulous, they simply do not make many like that; even in the cream of the crop hallowed halls of the Federal judiciary, Vaughn Walker stands out and above.

But that part of Vaughn Walker’s career is winding down now, and in a little more than three months he will be out the door of his chambers at the Philip E. Burton Federal Courthouse for the last time. Many, if not most, Federal judges who retire after they are at least 65 years of age and have 15 or more years on the bench, go on “senior status” where they continue to receive full salary, but work only part time as needed and as they wish. Walker is not taking senior status though, instead planning on returning to the private sector from which he came.

Although there are remnants of his former firm, Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro still in existence in the conglomerate now known as Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw & Pittman LLP, the firm as Walker knew it is gone. The rumor I hear is Vaughn intends to relax a little (a tremendously tireless and relentless worker, he has earned it) and do some private judging, likely at a place like JAMS (Judicial, Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc.) I would not be surprised to see him also pop up on the board of directors of a company or two as well, although I would think he would be pretty discerning as to who he would involve himself with.

Vaughn Walker will leave a man in full, having done all you could ever ask to do as judge, and more. Some people, even Federal judges, shrink from the toughest cases, and most controversial issues; not Vaughn Walker. Like Michael Jordan wanting the last shot with the game on the line, Walker wanted the most important issues of the day and he saw to it that they were handled with determination, fairness, logic, gravitas and with a sense of duty and history. Walker was a man of big moments, and always rose to meet them.

So, who will fill the enormous shoes of Vaughn Walker? The sad and pitiful truth is probably nobody because Barack Obama has displayed a shocking and reckless disdain for his duty to stock and replenish the Federal Judiciary (see here and here). There are currently 105 Federal judicial seats vacant, and that is not including Vaughn Walker’s yet; and a grand total of 48 nominees pending, with 25 of them pending in the Judiciary Committee and 23 having already been passed out of Judiciary and placed on the Senate Executive Calendar (although Harry Reid has not scheduled a floor vote for a single one of them).

This is simply inexcusable and a dereliction of duty by the Obama Administration for having named nominees for less than half, well less than half, of the empty judicial seats at a time when the Federal Judicial Conferences are declaring emergencies and begging for relief. It is also inexcusable for Harry Reid to have not wielded his power as Majority Leader better so as to move nominees that have come out of committee. About the only entity that has consistently done its job on this is, in fact, Pat Leahy’s Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy moves the nominees, even tough ones like Goodwin Liu, in and out of committee promptly. And then they die from the not so benign neglect of the Obama White House and Harry Reid and, of course, the intransigence of Mitch McConnell and the GOP caucus.

Judiciary Chairman Leahy issued a statement today on the appalling record being made on the Federal judiciary:

The Senate Wednesday night recessed until after the November elections without confirming any of the 23 judicial nominations pending on the Executive Calendar. One nomination, Fourth Circuit nominee Albert Diaz, was unanimously reported by the Judiciary Committee more than eight months ago, but Senate Republicans have yet to give consent to schedule a vote on his nomination. Seventeen of the 23 judicial nominations pending on the calendar were reported by the Committee unanimously.

“The Senate is well behind the pace set by a Democratic Majority in the Senate considering President Bush’s nominations during his first two years in office,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement. “Republicans have allowed the Senate to consider and confirm only 41 of President Obama’s circuit and district court nominations over the last two years. In stark contrast, by this date in President Bush’s second year in office, the Senate with a Democratic majority had confirmed 78 of his Federal circuit and district court nominations. That number reached 100 by the end of 2002, all considered and confirmed during the 17 months I chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

The Senate has taken more than five times longer to confirm circuit court nominations after being favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee than it did in the first Congress of the Bush administration. The Senate has taken three times longer to confirm district court nominations after being favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee.

“Last year the Senate confirmed only 12 Federal circuit and district court judges, the lowest total in 50 years,” Leahy said. “This year we have yet to confirm 30 Federal circuit and district judges. We are not even keeping up with retirements and attrition. As a result, judicial vacancies are, again, over 100 and, again, more than 10 percent. This trend should alarm the American people who expect justice from the Federal courts.”

It is indeed alarming, but it is certainly not all the doing of GOP obstructionism. That simply does not hold water when Obama cannot even be troubled to put up a nominee for well over half of the vacant seats. That is not just alarming, it is appalling. Remediation of the Federal judiciary from the right wing Federalist society coup underwritten by the Bush/Cheney Administration was one of the big things Barack Obama ran on as a candidate in 2008. And it is yet another, in what is becoming a long laundry list of promises and positions, he has failed to live up to.

When Mr. Obama has actually deigned to make judicial nominees, they have been characteristically centrist, milquetoast, unexciting “consensus” hollow suits. When Elena Kagan was installed on the Supreme Court, there was much talk, and fairly much some consensus, that Obama was moving the ideological spectrum of the Supreme Court to the right to at least some degree, even if not greatly. What has seen precious little discussion, however, is what is occurring to the ideological spectrum of the bread and butter District and Circuit levels of the Federal judiciary. A hint of what I am describing is found in Attorney General Eric Holder’s Op-Ed yesterday in the Washington Post:

The problem is about to get worse. Because of projected retirements and other demographic changes, the number of annual new vacancies in the next decade will be 33 percent greater than in the past three decades. If the historic pace of Senate confirmations continues, one third of the federal judiciary will be vacant by 2020. If we stay on the pace that the Senate has set in the past two years — the slowest pace of confirmations in history — fully half the federal judiciary will be vacant by 2020.

These are generally the same kind of numbers I have been hearing for months from a couple of Federal judges who are getting simply apoplectic about what is occurring under Obama’s watch (and these are folks that were big Obama supporters). What I would like to make crystal clear to any and all progressives out there though, is that it is not just the sheer number of retirements looming, it is who a great many of the retirees will be. And this is where we come back to Vaughn Walker, because the coming retirements will, tragically, have a disproportionately high percentage of the old school civil liberties lions appointed by Carter, the first term Bill Clinton and, yes, even Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

President Obama is WAY behind the curve. Remedying this situation, even if he suddenly finds the desire he has lacked to date, will certainly not get any easier with the greatly reduced Senate majority the Democrats will clearly be faced with, at best, after November’s mid term elections. The GOP can already smell the blood in the water. Obama has literally squandered the best conditions imaginable – an unheard of Senate majority of 60 seats and then 59 after Scott Brown – for restocking of the Federal bench with liberal judges. It is simply unfathomable this has occurred after what the Bush/Cheney regime did by turning the Federal judiciary over to the radical right wing Federalist Society types.

With such an inexplicable and unconscionable backlog now created, and in light of the foregoing reduced majority and grounds for increased GOP obstruction, Obama will be beyond lucky, if he fights with a determination and vigor he has never mustered before, to come close to treading water in the next two years. And that is only if he appoints the most milquetoast centrist hacks he can find (which clearly is his default preference). Should Obama continue down the path he has plowed to date and fail to get reelected in 2012, there may be 120-150 judicial vacancies by January 2013 and we will be set up for a President Palin or whatever other conservative crusader comes through, to administer the coup de grace on the wholesale permanent takeover of the Federal judiciary for the next 20-30 years by right wing ideologues that do not represent the common will of the American citizenry, and who will dogmatically attack anything and everything progressive in their sights.

This is what progressives need to understand about the dire predicament we face in relation to the non-SCOTUS Federal judiciary; it is truly bleak. And the Obama White House just completely squandered the best two year window for doing something about it. What now?

  1. Teddy Partridge says:

    Color me unsurprised at Walker’s announcement also, as I totally expected it (and I don’t believe you were my source for that, bmaz). I don’t know anyone who thought Walker would stay on the bench after this year.

  2. rosalind says:

    Bravo, bmaz! A wonderful salute to a deserving man and superb judge. And having just gone through a (successful) mediation at the S.F. JAMS office, I can highly recommend the spectacular view from the conference rooms.

    Your run-down on the judicial openings should be required reading for every citizen of the United States, most especially the “clap harder” crowd. Guess I’ll have to figure out the spotlight feature again…

    (Dodger Divorce OT: I spent yesterday at closing arguments and will write up my thoughts in a Seminal diary and let you all know when it’s up.)

  3. JohnLopresti says:

    I did not have time to follow the Perry case, even though it was liveblogged conveniently. One segment I thought deficient was the quality of evidence in the child adoption topic discovery phase.

    Nor did I follow the Oracle PeopleSoft controversy, though I would expect some fairly acerbic eloquence from some of the involved parties. Brave judge VWalker.

    As for the nomination holds, I observed a few recent newsarticles:

    Obama speaks out against McConnell secret hold on Diaz nomination in US Court of appeals 4th circuit. September 17 2010.

    Nominee Nourse US Court of Appeals 7th circuit, family income in millions$. As of August 18 2010 no hearing date set in committee.

    Wynn nomination passed August5 2010 in full Senate; US court of Appeals 4th circuit; a nominee who would have been the first African American on that bench when Clinton nominated him but Jesse Helms blocked him at that time.

    June 2 2010 the total of recused judges reached seven in the eastern district of Louisiana in the oil spill litigation avalanche.

  4. eCAHNomics says:

    Leaving positions unfilled is just one of the many signs I’ve noticed about how O just doesn’t seem to be interested in being prez.

    • sadlyyes says:

      that is how i read him…..the world is his oyster …right now…he will sleep through the rest of his term,and Michelle,and Carla can pal around …Milano,or the South of France

  5. bobschacht says:

    Because of projected retirements and other demographic changes, the number of annual new vacancies in the next decade will be 33 percent greater than in the past three decades.

    Well, at least that means that Obama may have an unprecedented opportunity to shape the bench for decades. I hope that he will push the issue with more determination, soon. Maybe Pete Rouse will help in that regard.

    Bob in AZ

  6. sadlyyes says:


    BP sees no ‘gross negligence’ in Gulf oil spill: new chief

    Published: Thursday September 30, 2010

    BP does not expect the US Justice Department to accuse it of “gross negligence” at the conclusion of its investigation into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, incoming chief executive Bob Dudley said Friday.

    A finding of gross negligence would dramatically increase the fines assessed due to the spill and could open BP up to criminal charges and more substantial civil liabilities.

    Dudley acknowledged that the investigation into the worst environmental disaster in US history has only just begun after it took nearly five months to fully “kill” the runaway well off the coast of Louisiana.

    “We don’t believe we have been grossly negligent in anything we’ve seen in any of the investigations,” Dudley told the Houston Chronicle, adding that BP has not yet entered settlement discussing with the government.

    Dudley, who announced a powerful new safety division and overhauled BP’s structure on Wednesday, said the move was not

  7. demi says:

    Actually, I had not heard this previous to your post. Many of us get news from this site. Many of us aren’t linked and connected the way you and Teddy are.

    Thanks. And, what are the ramifications for Prop 8 and taking this to the Supreme Court? Outside of the gay community, was Judge Vaughn outed as a gay previous to the Prop 8 trial? I’m guessing there’ll be more threads about this and the attending isssues.

    He did a really good job. I watched and listened to much of Teddy’s excellent live blogging, but, I’v not followed his career.

    Thank you.

  8. onitgoes says:

    Obama’s judicial appointment record is nothing short of a disaster and yet another example of his lack of leadership. One thing I’ll say in favor of Clinton is that he worked really hard to appoint as many federal judges as possible. Sometimes Clinton’s appointments were blocked by recalcitrant Republicans, but at least he tried.

    There is always a bottleneck with judicial appointments, but Obama’s derelection of duty here is breathtakingly horrible. There simply is no excuse for this, and it’s not for lack of willing, able and competent jurists ready for the posts.

    If Repubs block the appointments: so be it. Obama has hardly lifted a finger. What was someone saying about Obama “accomplishing 70%” of what he set out to do?? 70% of what??? This is just pathetic. Time for a primary in 2012. No excuse for this.

  9. lysias says:

    Pity he won’t take senior status at least until he knows the Prop 8 case won’t be remanded to the trial court.

    • DWBartoo says:

      I would suggest that Judge Walker is quite certain, with ample reason, that his work on Prop 8 will not and can not be picked apart, lysias.

      In fact, he has said as much.

      His work on Prop 8 will stand the test of time and any and all unreasoned and unreasonable assaults upon it.

      It is a fundamental legal milestone, and broadly recognized as such.


  10. DWBartoo says:

    Judge Vaughn Walker will be missed.

    He will be missed for the quality of his work.

    And he will be missed for his essential humanity.

    One hopes that he might opine on the state of the rule of law, and Constitutional due process, on such occasions as he might be moved to do so.

    His is a voice that reflects the best of the legal profession.


  11. demi says:

    Is this another, it doesn’t matter what the thread is about…it all comes back to Obama? Not being a cheerleader for him. Just love to see posts in between about other stuff, and then, and then….

  12. Teddy Partridge says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if Vaughn Walker would run for Mayor of SF? He would be the first gay mayor ever, and the first GOP in a very long time.

  13. tejanarusa says:

    bmaz, this is a lovely tribute to Judge Walker.

    And the rest of the post, well, just sad infuriating. When I think how much we (all left of the R’s) stressed the importance of the last election on the judiciary.

    It’s true, the president just doesn’t seem to care. This duty to appoint [good] judges is so basic.

  14. bridgettepl says:

    This problem is not Barack Obama’s alone. This goes back at least into the Clinton Administration. The two parties have routinely sabotaged the process. After all, why appoint judges and schedule floor votes when they will be blocked every time by a filibuster?

    My father use to work for the Federal Courts before he retired in 2007. The judge he worked for most of that time was suppose to retire back in the 90’s, but did not retire until sometime mid 2000’s. There was no one to replace him when he died.

    • DWBartoo says:

      Perhaps the ongoing bipartisan Executive power-garb is mindful of simple arithmetic?

      Fewer federal judges means fewer opportunities for the judicial branch to be “check” and thereby “balance” the Executive, in terms of the other two “branches” …

      Seems quite blatant, but the failure to appoint a sufficient number of judges, is, on the face of it, blatant behavior, full of dire consequence, as bmaz has clearly delineated, smacking of nothing less, when such a clear “pattern” of behavior is sustained and obvious, than intentional non-feasance.


    • bmaz says:

      Well, that is just flat out a bunch of hooey. George Bush sure managed to stock the Federal judiciary chock full of Federalist Society wingnuts pretty well.

      Bush appointed 323 judges to the District and Circuit level. Here is a list.

      So don’t tell me it just can’t be done, Bush was all over it, and had to do it in the face of far worse opposition numbers than Barack Obama. It really IS a profound lack of duty and effort on Obama’s part.

      • bridgettepl says:

        Please, also remember that Bush had a friendly Congress for a long time. Obama needs to get a lot done, I agree, but Clinton faced the problem for a very long time.

        • bmaz says:

          Please, remember that no President has had complete control of Congress with such wildly commanding majorities as Barack Obama has had for the last two years in a long, long time. This is just crap.

          Oh, and by the way, do you think it is the fault of Congress that Obama has consistently failed to even name nominees for over half the judicial vacancies? Are you going to make that argument? Really?

    • bmaz says:

      And, I might note, another tell is that out of 105 vacant seats, Obama has only been able to find time to nominate candidates for 48 of them. The number of vacancies has been up in the general range for quite some time, it did not just balloon up there yesterday, and the man can only fucking manage to come up with names for less than half? That is not even trying when it comes to doing your job. You cannot blame “Republican obstructionism” on well over 50% of the vacancies when your President won’t even nominate anybody for the damn seats.

  15. Sharkbabe says:

    At this point I’m wondering why Obama ever even showed up to move into the WH. I guess he wanted to put his girls in a prestigious DC private school for a while, and have a nice backdrop for Bo the dog photo-ops. And of course the personal 747 – even though it involves lots of speechifying to rubes who sometimes harsh his cool, still worth it.

    Anyway awesome post bmaz, wonderful Judge Walker tribute. The rest of it is just so beyond infuriating ..

    Gah, who IS this piece of fuck in the WH?! Who?! What!?

  16. DWBartoo says:

    Bmaz, thank you for this exceptional and immensely important post, and, as well, for having helped us all to understand what must be one of Judge Vaugh Walker’s finest “hours”, even as you juxtaposition it across from one of the current President’s worst (which is likely, one imagines, to continue …).


  17. OldFatGuy says:

    Obama has literally squandered the best conditions imaginable – an unheard of Senate majority of 60 seats and then 59 after Scott Brown – for restocking of the Federal bench with liberal judges.


    This is just more evidence, among the mounds and mounds of evidence, that these Democrats and Obama specifically, CHOOSE not to anything remotely “progressive” or “liberal”.

    With that kind of majority, any President, ANY, including this one, could’ve gotten way way way more done in this area with just a little effort.

    Nope, they CHOSE to do this. Just as with other choices they make, they are responsible. Then, when the Democrats have a smaller majority (or are in the minority) THEN they will appoint appoint appoint moderate to conservative judges claiming they have no choice since the Republicans have so much sway now.

    Come on Obama and Democratic defenders. Defend THAT. Defend having 59/60 seat MAJORITY and choosing not to do more.

    It is always funny how you never hear from them in threads where the evidence is overwhelming like this.

    • Mary says:

      This is why the fear factor bit isn’t working much with me lately. Always before I have to admit I would think of the lifetime appointments to the bench and figure – ok, as crappy as the Democratic nominee is, at least the party will be working to get good judicial candidates appointed. After Obama’s disregard for the judiciary on all levels – from obeying habeas orders to nominating judges – and being exposed to his “let’s staff the court with my friends who won’t convict me of crimes or will at least recuse bc they were involved in the criminal strategerizing” approach to Sup Ct nominees and watching Dems from Leahy to Feingold roll over on that, I don’t giveadamn about the Dems much anymore. The Republicans didn’t let Bush get by with Harriet Miers – the Dems did let Obama get by with Kagan. That’s a stark and embarassing difference.

    • bobschacht says:

      Obama has literally squandered the best conditions imaginable – an unheard of Senate majority of 60 seats and then 59 after Scott Brown – for restocking of the Federal bench with liberal judges.

      I have a suspicion that this was Rahm’s doing. Actually fighting for judicial appointments would have been a “distraction.” He felt they had bigger fish to fry. Besides, Rahm was from the House. He didn’t have the chops to manage things in the Senate, and Senators might have regarded him as a nuisance.

      I’m hoping for better results with Pete Rouse.

      Bob in AZ

      • bmaz says:

        So you are saying Rahm was the President, and Obama is just a figurehead? The last I looked, Obama was the guy we elected and whose duty it is; this is not Emanuel’s buck, and it does not stop at his desk. This has been the attitude and method of operation of the Obama White house from the outset; if Obama gave a tinker’s damn, he could have done something about it over the last almost two years, but he has never lifted a finger.

        • bobschacht says:

          So you are saying Rahm was the President, and Obama is just a figurehead?

          No, I’m saying that as an executive who is not Jimmy Carter, Obama delegates stuff, with general directions. And when he delegates stuff, it comes back to his attention only if there’s a stink about it. He has to delegate a lot of stuff to his COS, and unless he’s a micromanager like Carter, he doesn’t check up on everything, because there’s too much to check up on.

          Bob in AZ

          • bmaz says:

            I am told Obama is much more involved in most everything than people think and actually is a bit of a micromanager; but more importantly there are people that have been making a stink about this from the outset, so he really has no excuse.

        • BayStateLibrul says:

          You’re right, it was a matter of priority within the Oval Office.

          I think that we all play “Monday Morning Quarterbacking”. We can only guess what goes on. His priority does not line up with yours, and mine in this case, hence the discomfort. My bitch is that we frame every analysis

          with scorn, and almost a conspiracy-like notion that he is out to get

          Progressives. It’s not healthy or balanced, in my view.

          • DWBartoo says:

            Nobody here, at EW’s place, among the “regulars” is whining that Obama “is out to get progressives” BSL, and you know that.

            The concerns addressed here have primarily to do with the destruction of the rule of law, the abuse of Constitutional due process, and with the apparently deliberate breakdown of necessary checks and balances. We are observing and discussing the deliberate, cynical, and very destructive assault upon our legal system and the “balances” within it, which many of us feel is merely a continuation of Bush-Cheney … and the historic pattern of Executive overreach which has been going on, in fits and starts, since 1947, but is now reaching tsunami-like proportions through Obama’s actions.

            BSL, who cares what any administration calls us when that administration condones torture, murder, rape, and the use of predator drones at the whim of this or any other American President, who declares that he (or she) and he (or she) alone, is judge, jury, and executioner?

            You are correct we do not know what is going on IN the White House, however, we can clearly see what is coming OUT of it.

            Can you?

            Frankly, most here really do not care what the Obama administration calls us.

            You imply that our concerns are simplistic and personal.

            You know better.

            Such accusations simply reduce the respect that others may or might have for your insights, perspectives and political philosophy.


            • BayStateLibrul says:

              I agree with your “rule of law” issue.

              I am talking domestically, health care, bank bail out, etc?

              Politics is a clash of ideas.

              I have mine…

              Whether folks respect mine is immaterial to the debate.


              • DWBartoo says:

                Yet no one is suggesting that your ideas are premised on concerns that someone “is out to get” … you.

                Sheesh ……


              • DWBartoo says:

                And …. “politics” is becoming, evermore, the exercise of raw, brute power.

                Domestically and abroad.

                It is less and less a “clash” of ideas …

                Have you noticed?


  18. Mary says:

    Great post.

    @34, but keep in mind, Bush had Diane Feinstein working for him ;) (just a joke, kinda sorta).

    Bush puts up guys like Kavanaugh for a DC Circuit Court slot and gets by with it, but Obama can’t even come up with nominations?


    I listened today to NPR on the book about Anderson that is new out – and the White House plans to assassinate Jack Anderson that got sidelined when the prospective killers were needed to break in to the Watergate. It’s shocking to think we’ve devolved since then.

    • DWBartoo says:

      Amazingly, since Watergate, the political powers that be, have managed, at the very least, to pull off an engineering coup, Mary … all roads now seem to run downhill.

      Just think, if Nixon had had Obama’s “looking forward” chutzpah and access to drones, a fully compliant Congress and Judiciary, an Addington and a Yoo, that Jack Anderson would have been lucky to have simply been disappeared, under “legitimate” state secrecy rules, naturally …

      However, and of course, 911 …”changed everything”.


  19. MadDog says:

    OT – A good read in the WaPo on Peak Pakistan Dysfunction:

    U.S. tense over Pakistan

    With today’s Pakistani’s closing off the ISAF supply route into Afghanistan, today’s meeting between CIA director Panetta and the Pakistani military chief, the ISAF “hot-pursuit” attacks this week into Pakistan territory killing both Pakistan Taliban and now Pakistan troops, the ongoing flood chaos and the Pakistani failure to deal with it, and with a feckless and incompetent civilian government “warned” by the Pakistani military and intelligence heavyweights, does it appear to anyone else that Pakistan is at a tipping point?

    Anyone want to bet against the prospect that mucho more bad Pakistan news is right around the corner?

    • bmaz says:

      I think they may on the cusp of a military takeover of the civilian government out of extreme frustration with all this stuff they are letting the US get away with. Sure hope not though, that could be very bad bongos.

      • MadDog says:

        I agree that a military takeover in Pakistan is a strong possibility.

        However, I would also make the point that unlike previous military takeovers in Pakistan, they’ve got a far bigger “extremism” population problem that makes a military takeover far more problematic.

        Basically what I’m saying is that they may not have a military “strongman” who’s strong enough.

    • MadDog says:

      2 interesting bits from first, the WaPo and then second, from the NYT. Compare and contrast:

      From the WaPo:

      …Human rights organizations have cited the Pakistani military for abuses in its fight against domestic insurgents, criticisms that are likely to increase with the emergence on YouTube this week of a video that purports to show Pakistani soldiers summarily executing a row of blind-folded men in civilian dress.

      U.S. law prohibits assistance to any foreign military units shown to have engaged in such abuses. A U.S. official suggested it was the least of the administration’s current worries on Pakistan, but said that if the video were authenticated it “could be fairly cataclysmic.”

      A Pakistani intelligence official said the video was being investigated by “experts,” but expressed skepticism about its authenticity. “Anyone could wear the military uniforms and carry out such an act to malign the army,” the official said.

      (My Bold)

      From the NYT:

      …The Pakistani government indicated Thursday that the cross-border strikes were more than it could bear without protest. “We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies,” said the Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik.

      At the same time, Pakistani officials tried to contain the damage from a video that came to the attention of American officials in recent days showing the execution of six young men, bound and blindfolded, by Pakistani Army soldiers.

      Responding to questions from American officials, Pakistani officials acknowledged Thursday that the video had not been faked, as they had first contended, an American official said, and that they had identified the soldiers and would take appropriate measures

      (My Bold)

    • MadDog says:

      And if one were to extrapolate this editorial from one of Pakistan’s leading papers, The Nation, into a general Pakistani population consensus, who’d want to bet against a coming firestorm:

      Time to act

      The attacks on Pakistani territory by NATO gunship helicopters have gone beyond what the Pakistan military is prepared to tolerate and rightly so, given that it is the job of the military to defend Pakistan’s borders not allow them to be violated at will by external powers…

      …Unfortunately this is not enough – in fact if anything it is too little and too late. What needs to be done is to send a far stronger message that is easily understood by both the US, whose General Petraeus has already threatened sending US troops into Pakistan, and NATO. As a first step, the Pakistan military should ready itself to shooting down any NATO/US gunship helicopter that enters Pakistani territory…

      …But the time has come to alter course and steer us out of the quagmire of the US agenda in this region as it directly undermines our national interests.

        • bobschacht says:

          Woodward’s book on Obama’s Wars depicts a confrontation between Obama vs. Bob Gates and his generals. He asked them for 3 alternatives, but they presented him with a stacked deck– two of the 3 alternatives were not feasible, so that, in effect, they were strongly pushing him towards the choice they wanted him to make. When they would not come up with a decent set of options, Obama essentially had to make up his own option.

          I wonder if, by carrying the war into Afghanistan, as the generals have done, these NATO attacks into Pakistan that have angered so many in Pakistan were intended in part to force Obama’s hand in some way. Be prepared for some finger-pointing and a blame game.

          Bob in AZ

  20. fatster says:

    “Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today” by Stuart Schulberg, a film shown in Germany in the late ’40s, but not in the US since the military wanted it destroyed. Fascinating and relevant to us today. It will be out on dvd soon, apparently.


    • DWBartoo says:

      Fascinating link, fatster, in the sense of being very interesting indeed and clearly relevant, just as you suggest.

      Thank you, for bringing it to our attention.


  21. Petrocelli says:

    *Peers through Window*

    Does our crazy partying begin today ?
    Has Mommy left for ScotchLand™ yet ?

  22. fatster says:

    USPHS: spreading syphilis from Tuskegee to Guatemala.

    U.S. to apologize for STD experiments in Guatemala
    Government researchers infected patients with syphilis, gonorrhea without their consent in the 1940s


  23. b2020 says:

    Given the kind of judge Bygones Obama selects, maybe his amateurish – or obstructionist – approach to vacnacies has a good side. Before you rush to point out that a Repug could fill the gap starting 2012, let me point out that their atrocious choices are usually more likely to be discredited by sheer incompetence, sex scandals or plain corruption. Obama’s gig seems to be the functional sociopath.

  24. klynn says:

    Hey bmaz,

    You should post an update. This well written post seems to have put some heat on the subject.

    Thanks for a great post.