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!

A Very Long Post About A Star Wars Prequel Theory

Hello!

This is kind of random, but this morning my wife and I were discussing this and so I thought it would make a good post. I don’t remember specifically how this came up, but we were discussing how the Star Wars prequels are absolutely hated by some, and don’t seem to be very good to a lot of people. And I guess the following would also apply to the sequels to a certain extent too, though I don’t think it’s necessary.

Without further ado, here is one way you can love the prequels, mentally let them fit within the Star Wars universe, and still think they don’t necessarily match with the original trilogy:

    First, it is necessary to enumerate a few things people find wrong with the prequels:
  • Everything looks shiny and new, not like a lived in universe

  • Jar Jar Binks

  • midichlorians

So let’s take a look at these in a moment. I first want to talk about how our actual history books, biographies, and folk tales speak about history here on Earth in our time.

In the past, American text books taught that the Native Americans were nothing but savages who were made civilized by the European settlers. We know now, and I suggest they probably knew then, that many times settlers came in and took and swindled the land from the tribes. Sometimes even worse was done.

And while I won’t go into the atrocities of the past, I just thought of the above as an example of one case, and only one of many, which very much shows that our view of history can change, based on who is doing the telling. Children in the early 1900s may have grown up thinking all native people were no more than evil savages, that the cowboys had rode in and saved the day and protected the poor settlers. Now, maybe children are taught a different view.

So has history changed? Of course it hasn’t. Have the events that have occurred in these two wildly different versions of history not happened? Some have–many have–but may be reported from a completely different point of view.

Which brings me to one theory that will let me, and maybe others, square the Star Wars prequels with the later films: They were being told from a different point of view. This explains away almost all, if not all, of the problems I noted above. So let me discuss those items one by one and see if I can explain this better.

Everything is too shiny and new looking. Well, yes. Say you go to any major city in the world and you ask someone living in a poor neighborhood to describe things. They may describe how hard it is to find jobs, how their neighborhood is messy and houses are falling down, how there are so many people who want nothing more than to take away their ability to just survive day to day. Ask someone living in a very wealthy neighborhood and they may describe the sports venues, the nice parks, the great restaurants, the wealth of entertainment options. They are telling about the same city, but from their own point of view.

Jar Jar Binks. I have to admit, this one is more difficult to fit into this theory. But I came up with two ways.

One possibility is that many events took place that seemed very random, and whoever wrote this particular view of history ascribed them all to one person, Jar Jar Binks. There have been cases in history of people being credited for a lot of things they did not do, only because they got a reputation for something. So maybe in this case, Jar Jar was a goofy weirdo who was very lucky, so all the weird stuff got assigned to him.

Another theory is that there was one person who was there for many of these same, strange things that Jar Jar was, did the things he did, but that the person doing the telling didn’t like that historical person, so sought to either downplay him or make him look a fool. This, also, has happened in the past. Or the present.

Midichlorians. This one seems to me to be the one most likely to fit into this theory.

Look at it like an eclipse. In the past it was thought by many societies that an eclipse was a sign that the gods were angry. Some societies thought it was some kind of evil omen. We know now that it is just a typical astronomical event, easily explained by intelligent scientists, and even by school children now.

So what is different from now to what it was then? Point of view. We now have the advantage of an acquired knowledge base that has been accrued over the centuries. Back then they did not, so they looked to what they knew and understood to explain what was going on in the world. Midichlorians are just the attempt by the person giving their report of history (the prequels era), and their attempt to describe how the force works. This is just like the way these ancient societies attempted to describe an eclipse.

So, one way to look at all of this is the way I look at older history books, and that is: sometimes they can be entertaining and informative, but perspective matters. I don’t look at the history books I had in school as the definitive way things actually happened. They were one point of view that is being given in one book with the given amount of information available at the time it was written.

I know that we know more now about electronics and medicine now, for example, than we did even when I was a kid. So is it unfair to completely ignore everything that was in a text book when I was young? No. Just because my textbooks in school didn’t give a complete description of human DNA, it doesn’t mean that what we did learn about it wasn’t, at least in some ways, accurate from the perspective of the time. Now we may know more.

Star Wars is like that, given that the prequels were written by someone with a completely different set of knowledge and different circumstance than the original trilogy. So maybe the prequels were written by someone who was wealth and lived on Naboo, and maybe the original trilogy was written by a survivor from Aleraan. These people would necessarily have a different perspective.

Have a good weekend!

Sticker Shock At The Dealer

Hi everyone!

Today we took a car in to a dealer to get some standard service done. We have never taken our car to this particular dealer, but we wanted to have the little car checked out carefully. All of the service has been done on this thing regularly since it was brand new, so we didn’t really expect anything too large.

Imagine our surprise when we got an alert right away that it was going to cost over $1000 to fix a headlight, that something was wrong with the horn, and that several hundred dollars worth of brake work needed done immediately.

Ahhhhhhhh!

Exploding Head Image

Whoa, what?! Um……. no?

Please no?

So after talking about it, we decided to hold off on part of it. One of the headlights, it turns out, does have a problem, but $1000 was quite excessive. The brake ‘problem’ was that they just needed new pads soon, not something awful that had to be replaced (At a VERY inflated cost) by them. The horn problem was not a problem, they just wanted us to upgrade to some optional horn that was available on the car when it was new.

So yeah… crisis averted.

Hopefully.

I think I can actually fix the headlight myself (At least I think so), and the other stuff we can do somewhere much, much, much cheaper.

Phew!

Talk about stress inducing.

How was everyone else’s week?