Hi!

So… last week I went to a writers conference at Johnson County Central Resource Library. It was good. This was only the second one of these conferences I’ve been to, last year being the first time, and it was a good learning experience.

I went to a session about scene and structure, hosted by Heather Snow, and I learned a lot. There were a lot of small things that I didn’t even consider, but made a lot of sense when I heard them. Mostly about conflict within scenes. In fact, I’ve already applied some of these lessons to my current work in progress.

One of the most interesting things that happened while I was at that session was that I suddenly got a lot of ideas for changes and additions to my current work. It was weird, it was like I was struck with a burst of creativity, so I was taking notes on changes to my current work, new additions to my current work, and just general notes about the session. But I suddenly saw that one of my characters was all wrong, and had to be changed. A good character, but a distraction for the story. So I changed her.

It’s strange when ideas will strike me. During showers, while driving, while paying attention to someone else at a writers conference. Usually I don’t have a good way to make notes, but I already had my book and pen out this time, so it was easy.

There was an election the other day, you may have noticed. I’m originally from Kansas, though I now live in Missouri, so I keep a close eye on politics there. I was so thrilled to see Sharice Davids beat out Kevin Yoder for his congressional seat! Kansas will now have an LGBTQ member of congress, and that’s huge. The more LGBTQ voices there are talking about the issues that are of concern to us specifically can only have positive influence on future legislation. I’m not expecting miracles, but just having a voice there is nice.

Kansas also elected Laura Kelly over Kris Kobach! That is huge! Kansas was decimated by Brownback and his policies, and Kobach wanted only to take those same policies to a more extreme extent. Kelly is going to try to improve funding for schools, which need it, and has already announced that she will reinstate protections for LGBTQ state workers that had been in place before Brownback removed them. This is a big deal. If nothing else, it makes a statement that the state of Kansas is going to work toward removing institutional bias against LGBTQ citizens. Yeah, there’s a long way to go, but it’s a start!

Not so happy that Claire Mccaskill lost to Josh Hawley in Missouri, though. He’s nothing but a Trump rubber stamp.

We got our first real snow here in the Kansas City area yesterday. It was a mess this morning on some of the Missouri highways, especially around the Grandview triangle area. Which kind of leads me to one more political thing: On Tuesday, my fellow citizens of the state of Missouri voted down an increase in gas taxes that would have paid for improved and upgraded roads, as well as road maintenance.

What is wrong with you people!?

You voted against having good highways? Seriously? We have the second lowest gas tax of any state in the country. I think the last time it was increased was 1993. Seriously. If the amount of traffic was the same as in 1993, this may make sense. Not really, but… whatever. Our roads are not that good. They need a lot of work, and we can’t do that without the money to do it. This is costing us all a lot by way of extra vehicle maintenance on our own cars and on every delivery vehicle in the state.

The only thing I can think that may have turned some people away from the increase is the wording. At least I hope that was it. It made it sound like the money was going to the Highway Patrol. This is both true and misleading, if I understand correctly. For some reason in Missouri the road fund and the Highway Patrol get their money from one fund, so by increasing the Highway Patrol funding, you free up the money for road projects. It’s confusing, and I don’t know why this was not worded more clearly. Maybe it would have passed if it had been, I don’t know. We could sure use it, though.

That’s all I got. I talk too much, anyway, so it’s just as well.

Have a good weekend!

Fixing The SCOTUS Selection Process

Hello!

I try very hard not to get too political here, otherwise I could let things devolve into me spewing my political views on everything. None of us want that, trust me.

But the past few weeks have once again made me give some thought to how we select our Supreme Court Justices. It’s messed up. The process maybe worked (and I would like to stress maybe) in past times, when presidents and senators acted with more honor and patriotism, but those times have gone away long, long ago.

Now presidents tend to just select someone who agrees with them on a couple of hot button issues, or someone they think will ignite their base and get them re-elected. Same thing with the senators. Very few of them ever really vote to confirm or not confirm based solely on the honest ability of a nominee, and instead it involves more of a political calculation.

So how do we fix this?

I don’t know that I have any more of a reasonable answer than anyone else, but the first thing I think we have to do is get rid of lifetime appointments. That would immediately make a nominee somewhat less scary. No matter your view on Roe v. Wade, the nominee would be gone in a few years and could be replaced, so they aren’t going to be an impediment for the next forty years. Whatever your view of LGBTQ rights, a new justice either blocking those or enabling equality isn’t going to be a permanent fixture for the rest of our lives.

So why do we have lifetime appointments, anyway? Integrity of the system, some say. So that a justice can be appointed and not rule based on what is most likely to keep them in the job. That makes sense, to a certain degree, but what we have wound up with is a bunch of old people sitting there and making decisions based on the ideals of the person and time who nominated them. Not ideal, obviously. But not without some merit, because it keeps rulings on what is and isn’t constitutional from swaying wildly from one president to the next.

So how do we make them less political, but still get rid of the lifetime appointments? I can only think of two ways, and neither of them are ideal, and neither would work completely. Both may be better than what we have, though.

My first thought is that we should let the process work sort of like it does now, a president nominates and the Senate confirms or not, but with some modifications. The modifications would be that the senate would have to have a vote on the nominee within 90 days or else the nominee would automatically be placed on the court provisionally and all other business in the Senate would be held up until the vote could take place. If there is not enough time for the Senate to investigate fully, they could request extensions in one month increments from the sitting president. Another modification with this system would be some kind of limit, say 8 years, as a term limit. At that point, during the next federal election there would be a simple retention vote for the justice. If less than 50% of the cast votes are votes to retain, the justice would be removed from the court. Justices would then face this retention vote during the soonest federal election at the end of each 8 year term they serve. The advantage of this 8 years is that it would automatically take the justice into at least the next presidency, if not beyond.

The other possible change I can think of that would at least somewhat de-escalate the doom and gloom prospects of a nominee would be if they had a flat limit of 10 years. That’s it. 10 and you’re out. Automatically goes into the next presidency, at least, and constantly refreshes the court with new people and new ideas. And we would usually have a mix of justices that have been on the court a few years and new justices, because of the offsetting times that justices retired or were confirmed to the court, which would mean it would slow any dramatic sways in rulings of the court. You’re not going to get a 9-0 ruling in favor of something, then a few years later end up with a 9-0 ruling against, usually. I would also add the variation that the Senate must give a nominee a hearing and vote.

Neither of these would fix the problem completely.

Neither of these is going to keep Senators from making up their minds completely ahead of time.

Neither of these is going to stop the Senate from not doing their due diligence when investigating a nominee.

Neither of these will prevent a president from nominating a completely unqualified hack.

What they both would do is at least limit the damage any one justice can do. They would limit the damage any one president could do.

I guess maybe the one rule that would need added under all circumstances, no matter whether any changes like these were implemented or not, is that if there is a vacancy on the court and a president nominates someone, no other nominee for this or any other Supreme Court vacancy could be considered until that nominee is voted upon. It is absolutely ridiculous that a nominee by a sitting president–any sitting president–could be just ignored. They are supposed to ‘advise and consent’, not ‘sit on and ignore’. And whatever a person’s political affiliations and beliefs are, we should all be ashamed when a nominee is just allowed to sit without so much as a hearing until the next president is in office. That is not how honorable people with patriotic intentions behave.

So yeah, those are my 2 cents (which, because of inflation, is now only worth 1/100th of a cent), and I don’t think any of this is ever going to happen. And it would probably require a Constitutional Amendment, which is almost certainly never going to happen. Too many people would have to agree to give up some of their power with these, and most people in office these days do not have the honor and patriotism to do so. But at least I was able to list the ideas out here, which has been somewhat cathartic, so something was accomplished.

Everybody have a good weekend!

Writing, But It Is Going Very Slow Right Now

Hi!

Lately I’ve been a bit bogged down on my writing speed. I’m still making progress, but it is going painfully slow. I can’t really explain it. It’s not writer’s block because I have the ideas and know what I want to write. It’s almost like I go into slow motion while writing. I’ll look up after writing for what seems like half an hour, only to realize it has really been over two hours. It’s weird.

One possibility that has occurred to me is that the summer break for the local schools has drawn to an end. My wife being a teacher, we were together most days over the summer. We had lunch and went out for a little while doing one thing or another on most days. And now she’s away and I’m here alone, working on my book. While I worked on it during the summer, with her here, the place just feels different now.

Another possibility is my allergies are just driving me nuts. This could be a stand alone problem, or it could be just a contributing factor. For whatever reason, July seems to hit me really hard allergy-wise, and I’ve had it bad the past few weeks. The past week or two have been especially hard. So maybe I’m just kind of in an allergy-induced zombie state.

There’s also the possibility that I have just been mentally distracted. Just off somehow. Whatever it is, I’m toiling away and making progress.

So, onto another topic I guess.

What do you all think of that primary win for the Democratic party the other day? She has a chance to be the first lesbian, Native American member of the house if she defeats Kevin Yoder in the general election. Yay for LGBTQ representation in Congress!

I heard about an ugly incident after that primary that Ms. Davids won the other day, though. A local activist, a young woman who was the youngest delegate for Hillary Clinton two years ago, went to a rally after the results were in. She congratulated each candidate for running a good race, and most of them were nice to her, even though they didn’t win the election. Not Brent Welder. From what I have read, he went on a rant against her for some reason. He went so ballistic on this poor girl that he didn’t stop until she was in tears.

Wow, now that’s a class move there, Mr. Welder.

So seriously, whatever your political views and whoever you were supporting, I hope that any of you reading this out there know that you treat others with more respect and better class than this guy apparently did. I think the Democrats in Kansas should be very happy that their nominee isn’t as big of a jerk as this guy comes across as.

Have a good weekend!