The Supremes…

The Supreme Court is getting one of its periodic moments in the sun and I’d be foolish not to take advantage of that built in level of audience engagement to talk about nominations to the high court.

So, here’s the thing about Supreme Court nominations…

Presidents can have a short list of nominees that scratch every itch and check off the right boxes proving their conservative or liberal credentials. The talking heads can know with perfect certainty what the nominee will do once they’re confirmed by the Senate.

The catch is, once a Justice takes the bench, with a lifetime appoint to the last job they’re ever going to have, well, what we think we know means absolutely nothing.

Sandra Day O’Conner was nominated by Ronald Reagan and was supposed to be a vaguely right of center anchor for the Court who became a regular swing vote. Eisenhower nominated Earl Warren as Chief Justice and the Warren Court became one of the most liberal incarnations of the Supreme Court in American history. Harry Blackmun was a Nixon nominee who went on to write the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade.

The story of Supreme Court nominees turned Justices is filled with disappointed presidents who didn’t get what they expected.

I’m not in any way pretending that a nominee’s history of jurisprudence is irrelevant, but I am saying that past is not always prologue. Justices sit on the bench for decades. Expecting their judicial philosophy to remain static over twenty or thirty years is patently ridiculous. How many of your own beliefs have grown, been refined, changed, or moderated over the last twenty years? 

The story of the Supreme Court is filled with men and women on both ideological sides who “grew into” their position at the pinnacle of the Judicial Branch. I can’t imagine why future nominees would be any less “surprising” once they’ve been seated.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Note: I usually let each edition of WAJTW stretch broadly across three topic areas. On rare occasions, I feel compelled to focus in on just one. This is one of those weeks.

Because I refuse to let my social media feeds descend into a single ideology echo chamber, I’m seeing a lot of posts screaming that Justice Kennedy is a “bad man” or has “betrayed the country” buy announcing his retirement. While everyone is entitled to have and voice their opinion, the simple act of having or voicing that opinion doesn’t necessarily make you right.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is 82 years old. He was first appointed to the federal bench by President Gerald Ford. Take a breath and let that sink in. He was appointed to the US Court of Appeals in 1975 and elevated to the Supreme Court in 1988. Take another breath. That means he has been serving his country as a judge for more than 40 years – longer than I’ve been alive and certainly longer than the angsty millennials who seem to make up the largest block of those calling him a “traitor” have been around.

I don’t always agree with Justice Kennedy’s reading of the law, but after entering his 9th decade and serving 43 years on the federal bench, I’d say he’s entitled to move off into retirement any damned time he wants to. If you think an 82 year old man wanting to retire is an act of political cowardice, I suspect you’re the one who has a particularly craven view of politics.

Here’s a pro tip – if you can’t somehow manage to see life through any lens other than politics, go outside for a while, or pick up a book, or watch a movie, or do whatever you need to do to get your head a little unfucked. Seriously. Do it. You’ll thank me later.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Lawn (work) envy. If there was ever a single sound that could get under my skin, it isn’t nails on a chalk board or the hi pitched whining of small human beings. The most awful of sounds is the sound of lawn maintenance happening somewhere next door when I’m working from home. No, I’m not mad that they’re doing it. I don’t feel interrupted or put upon at all. It’s mostly just a rising frustration that they’re able to get out there and do it while I’m stuck being more or less responsible and not able to take advantage of the good weather to do the same thing myself.

2. Calls from unknown or 800-number. By now you’d think your fancy algorithms would tell you that I’m not going to pick up. I never do. But I admire your hope-spings-eternal persistence. If you want to have any hope of getting my eyes on your product or service, try send me an old fashioned letter. I’ll at least scan the first line of that before shredding it… and every once in a great while I’ll read the pitch if you’ve got a good hook up front. Otherwise, feel free to continue going to voicemail. It’s entirely your choice.

3. Showing restraint. There’s really nothing worse than being forced by social convention to sit politely and try not to smirk when the person on the other side of a conversation so richly deserves being grabbed by the throat and pummeled against every flat surface in the room. No matter how much asshats like that deserve a bit of rough treatment, I’d be the one who ended up in jail for handing it out. Talk about living in an unjust world.


For the most part, I’m a fan of the rule of law. In a civilized world, the dispassionate delivery of justice is just the normal way of things. Libya, for the time being, is most decidedly not part of the civilized world. Being in the midst of a revolution tends to preclude a country from practicing some of the niceties. That’s why I’m a little confused by the talking heads and news readers who seem to think the Libyan revolutionaries should have paused during a running firefight to swear out an arrest warrant for their recently deposed head of state.

Frankly, I’m more than a little surprised he wasn’t more badly mauled than he was. The guy had been torturing his own people for more than four decades. Does anyone really expect them to sit tight and wait for the gendarmerie to take their former dictator into custody? We’re not talking about your run of the mill serial killer here. After you’ve spent a lifetime blowing airliners out of the sky, harboring terrorists, and committing a laundry list of war crimes, I think this is a fine example of someone to whom the usual rules need not apply.

Personally, I haven’t lost any sleep because he will never see the inside of The Hague. Trying a lunatic like Gaddafi for “crimes” makes the atrocities he committed seem entirely too trivial. Being gunned down in the dirt and then left to rot in an underpowered deep freeze seems like an altogether more fitting end for a sadistic madman. The only shame is that they can’t find a way to revive him and do it again. Sic semper tyrannis.

From Hell’s Heart, I Stab at Thee; or A Letter to the Field

We built you a sports car. A machine with beautiful lines built for high speed and low drag, taking the best aspects of the past and melding them carefully with the best of the modern. We built you a Ferrari and then made the unpardonable mistake of handing you the keys.

You’ve stripped the gears with your towering incompetence. You’ve run at full speed into every pothole and ditch even close to the road. You’ve taken a thing of beauty and carved it into so many ill-fitting pieces it’s nearly impossible to tell there was any design at all.

My God, how I hate you. How I loathe you in your unerring stupidity. You’ve defined everything that is wrong about what we do. If there is any justice in this world or the next, you’ll have a special reservation in the 9th level of hell.