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It’s time for term limits for Supreme Court justices

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Anthony Kennedy’s retirement is a reminder that the US is unlike every other democracy in the world.

Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement. In the weeks and months to come, the battle over appointing a new Supreme Court justice will be very, very nasty. Whoever replaces him could serve on the Court for 40 years. That’s too long. It makes the stakes too high.

Unlike every other democracy in the world, the US has lifetime appointments for the Supreme Court. This means that whoever gets appointed could serve for 30 or more years — a tenure that is becoming more and more the norm.

So here’s a simple idea to dial down some of the destructive warfare of the Supreme Court confirmation process: term limits for Supreme Court justices.

Term limits would make the Supreme Court more responsive and predictable

The idea of term limits for Supreme Court justices (10, 12, or 18 years are the most common proposals) has been floating around for decades. But the increasingly contentious nature of the confirmation process should give this proposal new urgency.

For one, it would significantly decrease the likelihood of another unexpected departure, like the one caused by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death almost a year ago now. Scalia was appointed in 1986. He would have been term-limited out long before his passing. In these partisan times, justices are staying on the bench longer, not wanting to leave unless they can be replaced in a political environment that ensures a replacement on the same side. Which makes them more likely to die on the bench.

Moreover, if justices were staggered in their terms, everyone in Washington would know they’d have another opportunity to change the Court again soon enough. This regularity could also move toward more of a norm of fair play.

Instead of this predictable changeover, we have a system where, as Norm Ornstein compellingly puts it, “the policy future of the country depends as much on the actuarial tables and the luck of the draw for presidents as it does on the larger trends in politics and society.”

Longer and longer terms also mean that justices increasingly lose touch with the world outside the Court. This is a point that Justice John Roberts made in 1983: “Setting a term of, say, 15 years would ensure that federal judges would not lose all touch with reality through decades of ivory tower existence.”

The Economist magazine has also argued that higher turnover would make the Court more responsive:

Breathing new life into the nation’s highest court more often — even if it does not make the tribunal any less political —would bring more dynamism to the judiciary, jog the justices’ decision-making patterns and narrow, even if only slightly, the yawning gap between the enrobed ones and everyday citizen.

Erstwhile Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has also argued for Supreme Court limits:

Nobody should be in an unelected position for life. If the president who appoints them can only serve eight years, the person they appoint should never serve 40. That has never made sense to me; it defies that sense of public service.

Trump’s first appointee to the court, Neil Gorsuch, was 49 at the time of this appointment, which means he could possibly serve 40 years on the bench. Plenty of people live to 89 these days. If Trump appoints another justice around the same age, that could be another potential 40-year appointment.

The public largely agrees on the value of term limits for Supreme Court justices. A Reuters poll last year found widespread support for term limits. Sixty-six percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans wanted 10-year terms for justices, and 80 percent of those identified with the Tea Party–supported term limits.

While the most direct way to enact term limits would be a constitutional amendment, that’s obviously a long shot in today’s politics.

A more likely way to accomplish this was suggested by Robert Bauer in 2005: that the president agree not to nominate anybody who wouldn’t agree to serve a limited term and the Senate agree not to confirm who doesn’t agree to serve a limited term. As Bauer wrote:

The president could announce such a commitment when he introduces the candidate to the media. The Senate Judiciary Committee could ask the nominee about his views on longevity and also seek a commitment, even to a range of years. Any justice who hopes that with the passage of time such an exchange would be forgotten would likely be disappointed. Over time, a custom or expectation would develop. No law would be necessary to assure that justices act in the socially accepted fashion, just as no president served more than two terms for almost 150 years after Washington.

Understandably, Republicans have no real incentive to agree to this compromise. But a few Republicans — Jeff Flake, John McCain, Bob Corker, Susan Collins are likely suspects — could stand up and demand it as a price of supporting a nominee. It’s a chance for them to leave a true legacy.

At a time when American institutions seem increasingly fragile, a compromise like term limits for Supreme Court justices would be a much-needed vote for long-term stability. If not, the politics of Supreme Court appointments will only get worse. If Democrats ever get back unified control of government, they might be tempted to expand the number of justices to 15, as payback for the “stolen” Merrick Garland seat. Republicans should strategically de-escalate while they can.

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invinciblegod
140 days ago
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Unlikely as even if the present people in power enact it, it would just be repealed or ignored in some future term where limits would be inconvenient (except for constitutional amendments which is unlikely).
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mareino
138 days ago
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It's going to need to be a Constitutional amendment. The voluntary method that the author suggests is unenforceable under Article III. Countless judicial nominees have made promises to secure nomination and ignored them the day they got their robes.
Washington, District of Columbia
skorgu
140 days ago
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God, if only.

I Voted for Donald Trump

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Didn’t want it to be that way. During the primary season Mary and I and some friends wrote and paid to run full page antiTrump local ads on the day of his campaign stop in Vermont. We criticized his protectionism, misogyny, apparent racism, praise for Putin, and his practice of leaving investors and suppliers clutching the empty cloak of bankruptcy while he slipped profitably off into the night.

We were astonished as it became apparent that he really could and then did win the primary. We were equally surprised at Bernie’s strength in the other primary. Like many members of the establishment, we underestimated and under-respected the rage of people who are suffering from miserable schools, stimulus programs aimed at saving bankers, and – from their point of view – diminishing opportunity.

But he did win his primary and Hilary won hers. Now what to do? At first I thought I’d vote for Hilary; I would’ve voted for her over Obama if I’d voted in a Democratic primary; I’m not constrained by party loyalty. I admire assertive people including women. But Bernie sucked her further and further to the left on one issue after another. She radiated insincerity. The day I decided I couldn’t vote for her was the day a reporter asked if she’d wiped her email server. “You mean with a dishrag?” she smirked. The intentionally ditsy reply was an insult to women. The smirk was more than I could stomach. It seemed to cover everything from Whitewater to the Clinton Foundation to the fortunes Bill Clinton got for speaking in Russia while the sale of American uranium assets to Russia was in the hands of Hilary’s State Department. Throw in Bengasi, too.

I looked at the platform of the Libertarians. Too naively pacificist for a dangerous world.

I thought about not voting for President. Mary convinced me that was a copout, not that my vote in Vermont was going to make a difference. I filed an absentee ballot, hesitated but voted for Trump, and headed to Houston on business. Didn’t think he had a chance. The rest, of course, is history.

Why am I writing this now? Because a very intelligent and principled friend said “no use arguing with Trump voters; they’ll never change their minds about their man.” That made me realize that many intelligent and principled people are making the intellectual and political mistake of assuming that the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump are a mindless monolith. Certainly some supported Trump from the beginning. Some are racists and white supremacists.  Others were Sanders supporters appalled at the treatment their candidate got from the Democratic establishment or just angry at the establishment in general. Most Republicans had originally supported some other candidate in the primaries until Trump wore them all out. I think many people were like me; they chose what they perceived to be the lesser of two evils. Except for Trump, Clinton had the highest negatives of any major party presidential candidate in modern polling history. Trump wouldn’t like this theory, but I’m not sure he could’ve beat anybody (well, almost anybody) else.

That brings us to the next election. Suppose you want Trump outta there. I agree – and I promise you many Trump voters agree – we should do better than a petulant bully with a twitter addiction. But, if you want Trump out, just attacking him won’t do it. Didn’t work for me or others. There needs to be a credible alternative. The ballot is set up to vote FOR somebody. Whom do you think should be the candidate? Whom are you working for? What are you doing to assure that the many legitimate grievances that became Sanders and Trump votes get the attention they deserve? How are you helping the establishment reform and regain the credibility it has squandered?

In today’s New York Times Thomas Friedman sounds a code red urging all and sundry to vote for any Democrat they can find to check Trump in Congress. That may happen; Obama had a disastrous midterm but still go reelected two years later.  Voting by party label is hardly a good idea in any circumstance.

But far down in the article Friedman makes much more sense:

“… Democrats can’t count on winning by just showing up. They still have to connect with some centrist and conservative voters — and that means understanding that some things are true even if Trump believes them: We do have a trade issue with China that needs addressing; we cannot accept every immigrant, because so many people today want to escape the world of disorder into our world of order; people want a president who is going to grow the pie, not just redivide it; political correctness on some college campuses is out of control; people want to be comfortable expressing patriotism and love of country in an age where globalization can wash out those identities.”

I’d add to the list that the Iran agreement was bad for America and that China needed to be threatened with the trade weapon to get it to pressure North Korea.

I’m not sorry The Donald is president instead of Hilary; I would like to see us do better. I’ll change my vote once I have an alternative.

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invinciblegod
150 days ago
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People like the author are idiots. He says attacking trump won't do it and you need something to vote for. What did Trump offer over Clinton? He does not explain. This whole piece is just post justification for his decision. Since he has no sensible arguments, I can only assume he is indeed one of the people who will vote for sexism and racism as long as taxes benefits him.
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sirshannon
151 days ago
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Wherein he proves the theory while stating he is the exception.
skorgu
163 days ago
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Man, fuck you.
brennen
163 days ago
Strongly concur.

China Dictating US Airline Website Design and Award Charts - View from the Wing

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In January China flexed its muscles against Marriott at a time that the US President began making rumblings of a trade war. They shut down Marriott’s booking engines in the country. Marriott Marriott fired an hourly worker who rather innocuously ‘liked’ a tweet about Tibet and even removed a banned book from one of their hotels.

At the time I wrote that China would be cracking down on airlines, too. American’s website for instance lists Taiwan separately from China.

China specifically called out American Airlines and United Airlines speech. Delta was called out three months ago and apologized to China.

China told American Airlines and United that they had to refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as part of China. They wouldn’t be allowed to treat or refer to these as separate countries. Here is China’s letter to United (in Chinese, .pdf).

They told United that Taiwan must be listed on its website as “‘Chinese Taiwan’ or ‘Taiwan: province/region of China’.” The Chinese government’s letter specified that “Taiwan must be included in any map of China on its website and United must use the same color on the website for mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.” China is even involving itself in United’s graphic design.

But if goes a step further than that! The Chinese government wants to ensure that award travel to Taiwan doesn’t get more expensive, insisting that “Taiwan destinations must not be classified as being in Southeast Asia but must be put in the same category as China” — notably United lists Hong Kong as Southeast Asia, while American lists all destinations at issue including China itself as “Asia 2.”

China is insisting everyone copy IHG hotels and specifically define Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan and part of China.

And they’re using their new ‘social scoring’ system to rate US companies.

If United doesn’t comply by May 25, the Chinese government will invoke “Civil Aviation Industry Credit Management Trial Measures” and “make a record of your company’s serious dishonesty and take disciplinary actions against your company…

That reference to “Civil Industry Credit Management” is citing a trial regulation on credit scoring in the aviation industry, and the letter claims United’s labeling of Taiwan is equal to “serious dishonesty” under that regulation…

According to a letter being released by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders,

This is Orwellian nonsense and part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies,” the statement reads. “China’s internal Internet repression is world-famous. China’s efforts to export its censorship and political correctness to Americans and the rest of the free world will be resisted.”

…“The United States strongly objects to China’s attempts to compel private firms to use specific language of a political nature in their publicly available content,” the White House statement says. “We call on China to stop threatening and coercing American carriers and citizens.”

From China’s perspective, they can regulate speech beyond their borders as a condition of allowing companies to do business. Where will this end? Could they tell airlines they’re only allowed to honor elite benefits for passengers whose speech about Taiwan or Tibet conforms to their standards?

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invinciblegod
191 days ago
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Obviously, any country can dictate terms for companies to do business there. The only limiting factor is whether it is worth it to the company. For instance, one of the terms for the US is to comply with Iran sanctions which ZTE has violated so now they can't do business properly with the US.
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Woman Who Lied to Police About 3 Black Men Raping and Kidnapping Her Faces Zero Years in Prison

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Breana Harmon Photo: Denison Police Department The beautiful, blond Texas Beckymonster who falsely told police that she was raped and kidnapped by three black…
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invinciblegod
260 days ago
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Thanks, now we have more fuel for not believing women when they are raped! Just point to this story! /sarcasm
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acdha
260 days ago
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Imagine if she’d done something truly heinous like getting stopped for a traffic violation while black
Washington, DC

Exclusive: Trump privately talks up executing all big drug dealers

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In Singapore, the death penalty is mandatory for drug trafficking offenses. And President Trump loves it. He’s been telling friends for months that the country’s policy to execute drug traffickers is the reason its drug consumption rates are so low.

"He says that a lot," said a source who's spoken to Trump at length about the subject. "He says, 'When I ask the prime minister of Singapore do they have a drug problem [the prime minister replies,] 'No. Death penalty'."


He often jokes about killing drug dealers... He’ll say, 'You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.'— A senior administration official to Axios
  • But the president doesn't just joke about it. According to five sources who've spoken with Trump about the subject, he often leaps into a passionate speech about how drug dealers are as bad as serial killers and should all get the death penalty.
  • Trump tells confidants a softer approach to drug reform — the kind where you show sympathy to the offenders and give them more lenient sentences — will never work.
  • He tells friends and associates the government has got to teach children that they'll die if they take drugs and they've got to make drug dealers fear for their lives.
  • Trump has said he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America, though he's privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system.
  • Kellyanne Conway, who leads the White House's anti-drug efforts, argues Trump's position is more nuanced, saying the president is talking about high-volume dealers who are killing thousands of people. The point he's making, she says, is that some states execute criminals for killing one person but a dealer who brings a tiny quantity of fentanyl into a community can cause mass death in just one weekend, often with impunity.

The substance: Trump may back legislation requiring a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for traffickers who deal as little as two grams of fentanyl. Currently, you have to deal forty grams to trigger the mandatory five-year sentence. (The DEA estimates that as little as two milligrams is enough to kill people.)

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, and much of it is manufactured in Chinese labs. It can be lethal in extremely small doses. Of the 64,000 people who died of drug overdoses in 2016, more than 20,000 overdosed on synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse.

Between the lines: Conway told me this kind of policy would have widespread support. “There is an appetite among many law enforcement, health professionals and grieving families that we must toughen up our criminal and sentencing statutes to match the new reality of drugs like fentanyl, which are so lethal in such small doses,” she said.

  • "The president makes a distinction between those that are languishing in prison for low-level drug offenses and the kingpins hauling thousands of lethal doses of fentanyl into communities, that are responsible for many casualties in a single weekend."

What's next: Trump wants to get tough on drug traffickers and pharmaceutical companies. Stay tuned for policy announcements in the not-too-distant future.

  • Trump and some of his advisers are discussing whether they might adopt other aspects of Singapore's "zero tolerance" drug policies, like bringing more anti-drug education into schools.
  • Both Conway and the First Lady Melania Trump, who has taken a strong interest in the administration's anti-drug policies, support getting better drug education and prevention into schools.In Singapore, the death penalty is mandatory for drug trafficking offenses. And President Trump loves it. He’s been telling friends for months that the country’s policy to execute drug traffickers is the reason its drug consumption rates are so low.
  • "He says that a lot," said a source who's spoken to Trump at length about the subject. "He says, 'When I ask the prime minister of Singapore do they have a drug problem [the prime minister replies,] 'No. Death penalty'."

"​He often jokes about killing drug dealers... He’ll say, 'You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.'"— A senior administration official to Axios

  • But the president doesn't just joke about it. According to five sources who've spoken with Trump about the subject, he often leaps into a passionate speech about how drug dealers are as bad as serial killers and should all get the death penalty.
  • Trump tells confidants a softer approach to drug reform — the kind where you show sympathy to the offenders and give them more lenient sentences — will never work.
  • He tells friends and associates the government has got to teach children that they'll die if they take drugs and they've got to make drug dealers fear for their lives.
  • Trump has said he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America, though he's privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system.
  • Kellyanne Conway, who leads the White House's anti-drug efforts, argues Trump's position is more nuanced, saying he the president about high-volume dealers who are killing thousands of people. The point he's making, she says, is that some states execute criminals for killing one person but a dealer who brings a tiny quantity of fentanyl into a community can cause mass death in just one weekend, often with impunity.

The substance: Trump may back legislation requiring a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for traffickers who deal as little as two grams of fentanyl. Currently, you have to deal forty grams to trigger the mandatory five-year sentence. (The DEA estimates that as little as two milligrams is enough to kill people.)

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, and much of it is manufactured in Chinese labs. It can be lethal in extremely small doses. Of the 64,000 people who died of drug overdoses in 2016, more than 20,000 overdosed on synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse.

Between the lines: Conway told me this kind of policy would have widespread support. “There is an appetite among many law enforcement, health professionals and grieving families that we must toughen up our criminal and sentencing statutes to match the new reality of drugs like fentanyl, which are so lethal in such small doses,” she said.

  • "The president makes a distinction between those that are languishing in prison for low-level drug offenses and the kingpins hauling thousands of lethal doses of fentanyl into communities, that are responsible for many casualties in a single weekend."

What's next: Trump wants to get tough on drug traffickers and pharmaceutical companies. Stay tuned for policy announcements in the not-too-distant future.

  • Trump and some of his advisers are discussing whether they might adopt other aspects of Singapore's "zero tolerance" drug policies, like bringing more anti-drug education into schools.
  • Both Conway and the First Lady Melania Trump, who has taken a strong interest in the administration's anti-drug policies, support getting better drug education and prevention into schools.


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invinciblegod
261 days ago
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I would support such a law if it was applied perfectly, but the past decades show that such a law would easily be abused.
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Google Home Max Smart Speaker Now Shipping

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Chris Chan and James Howarth, product managers for Google Home Max:

Google Home Max sounds pretty amazing right out of the box because it’s our first speaker with Smart Sound. Powered by Google’s artificial intelligence (AI), Smart Sound means Max can automatically adapt itself based on where it’s placed in the room. There’s no extra setup or testing required. Even if you move Max from one spot to another, it’ll continuously tune itself to the room, so your music will sound one step closer to the studio.

$399. Pretty much the same basic idea as Apple’s HomePod, but Google Home Max is shipping.

(Also, check out the domain name Google is using for their company blog now. Apple has a similar top-level domain, but I don’t think they’re using it yet.)

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invinciblegod
338 days ago
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Can't wait for the shootout between the two.
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