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AvatarComments by Eduard de Jong*

On “How To Resolve The Supreme Court Dilemma Open Thread

#3 purpose is to add a delay at the start of the process, in order to mitigate a rush-through. Whish is what we presently see. I agree, it introduces the negative of a coopting body. #4 is directly based n your suggestion and it takes care of the cooptation problem.
#5 would be a no brainer in Europe, I suspect it would be a major political battle in the US.
#6 I agree, those issues should be discussed as political item on which a difference of opinion may be possible and for which a compromise can be found that has everybody equally happy and unhappy. By not having the discussion in legislative bodies, it is left to the Supreme Court to take care of loose ends. That's a bad place for it to be.
A politically biased court ruling, a bit more likely on such holes left by missing legislation based on lack of public discourse, may damage its legitimacy with is bad for everybody.
#7 Age of a person is not the problem it's the gerontocratic trend that I'd identify here. In that aspect an age limit could mitigate this trend.


There are actually several problems to solve here:
Problem 1: Obstruction by the Senate
Give the Senate a maximum time to approve or reject, with appointment happening by default.
This solution has been mentioned by others here, with additional arguments; it needs some refinement, though, see problem 3.

Problem 2: The urgency to have a full court
Add a number of judges to the court, like 3, with a lottery determining which 8 judges sit for a case in addition to the chief justice.

The chief justice has the task to guard consistency of court rulings, so should be the only permanent member.
In case of a vacancy nothing changes as there will always be 9 judges sitting to hear and decide a case. Without urgency solutions to problems that extend the duration of the process become feasible.

Problem 3: Rushing through an appointment
Let the Supreme Court prepare a shortlist of candidate judges, with 7 names on it to be presented to the president within 30 day of the vacancy. If the court fails to deliver, the President can nominate anyone he wants. If the Senate rejects the first 6 nominees from the shortlist the last one is confirmed by default.

The court can decide to take its time to prevent a rushed decision. The shirt list and default nomination of the last one also prevents the senate from stretching the process by repeated rejections. By being proposed by the court it self, the default candidate is assumed to be qualified. To determine the short list the judges could use a suitable election system like a transferable vote.

Problem 4: Transparency of nomination.
have the states nominate a long-list of candidate judges ,e.g. maximally two per state, from which the court picks its short list. That list should be presented to the court within 21 days. In this case the Supreme Court should also have 21 days to make its short list. If the states provide less than 3 times the number on the shortlist, the supreme court first publicly complements the long list to that number.

The state should decide how to do this nomination, the Governor might be a good pick to have it done fast enough. Such a large list of candidate judges makes it very hard for the preferential treatment of any candidate in particular, so the nominees on this list are likely to be chosen as much for their qualifications as for their ties with the deciding body in each state.

Problem 5: Gender balance:
This can be done by solution #3 with: The shortlist should evenly contain both genders. When adding a second candidate a state should nominate one with the opposite gender.

The solution to this problem can only be a strong recommendation for the shortlist, and a weak requirement for the states.

Problem 6: The possibility of an politically biased court
Solution: most of the preceding solutions contribute to addressing this.

Problem 7: Lifetime judgeship.
Solution: Retirement of judges after a specific age, e.g. 75.

Retired judges could be granted the title of judge emeritus/emerita, and as such still partake in the vote on the short list.

It may be that none of those solutions require a change of the constitution. A law that seals itself with a qualified majority could encode the desired procedures. For instance the retirement solution could be accomplished by adding a new judge, with the court applying a rule that does excludes a retired judges from being called to sit on a case.
A constitutional change might seem to protect against a misbehaving Senate, however that only works if the supreme court has the effective power to enforce that, meaning that the situation would be in constitutional crises mode.
A law that clearly specifies the behaviour and (moral) responsibilities of all involved would at least cmake clear where the misbehaving happens.

On “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

If we use Occam's razor, the most likely reason that there is no widespread news reporting of an ongoing revolution is that there is in fact no revolution going on.
In the 80th and 70th iI witnessed a number of squatting-related riots in Amsterdam and they were all very local. Three block form where the protests were raging, life continued as if nothing was happening. Many of these protesters where self declared revolutionaries that were out to proof that the state is violently suppressing its citizens. Funnily enough, provoking the police, often started by ignoring an order to disperse, always succeeded in that proof.

Large protests, sure, that's what is happening, and looting too. Looting gives much more thrilling pictures that massive amounts of angry people, even if they are being dispersed with teargas and other violence. As history shows, a revolution looks a tad different, although it almost always starts with demonstrations. The first signs hinting at a potential revolution, is that these demonstrations keep going on for weeks, as the clear indication that the anger in the populace has has reached a critical limit and people ignore their own safety and suppress anxiety. Attempts to violently suppress the protests, killing random protesters often stops these protests or can escalate the anger making more people come out to protest.
From my perch across the ocean, what's happening in the USA right now, doesn't look like a revolution, it's not even close. the fact that some romantic left thinking people, that hunker for fundamental change in society, declare an autonomous zone, is just that: a dream of ideals finally come true.

Wise governments know that with demonstrations of this scale it should listen to the grievances and find a way to be clearly seen to address these. Failure to do so might escalate and bring a revolution closer, maybe not this time, but then there will surely more of these large scale protests.

On “Mini-Troughput: The Triple Lindy Stats Flop

Assuming that presenting the cubic curve as fitting the data is not done out of malice, it is clear that it's very hard for most non-mathematicians to grasp the exponential curve.
One of the fundamental mathematical properties of an exponential curve is that for any piece of it there always will a quadratic, cubic or higher power polynomial curve that fits that segment very closely only to deviate form it before and after the segment where it matches.

The basic model for an epidemic is a know physical process of exponential growth, that is a process where the amount of growth depends on the size of the population. In nature there are a number of such processes. As the environment in which growth happens is n practice always finite, iny exponential growth is always followed by a decline. The decline is usually also exponential. Typically growth stops at a certain level of saturation.
Understanding the basic mechanism behind an observed process is the basis for interpreting the date that an be measured from the process. Those measurements will then reveal the parameters of the process. For an exponential process those parameters are the growth rate and a starting value.

For an unknown process one could try several different curves to see which fits best, and exponential should always be one of the curves tried. That was what I did thought when studying physics in the 70's: first plot the data on logarithmic paper, and if the line looks somewhat straight, the process you have observed is exponential, so don't bother trying any other curve!

The nice thing about exponential growth that it has one critical parameter: growth rate. All measurable effects are proportional to that parameter: For Covid-19 the number of cases, the number deaths, the number of undiagnosed cases are all proportional to the growth rate. While it is hard to know these proportions exactly, we can chose the measurement we can measure the most accurate to learn its single parameter. In case of Covid the number of death may be the most accurately known.


the link in PO8 doesn't work

On “Sovereign and the Problems with Internet Voting

Thanks for explaining how immature this proposal is.
I did some work on designing an electronic voting system and the requirements for it to meet all requirements of being open, fair, protecting voter secrecy etc. are not easy to meet. In some of the papers on e-voting there is a reference to the cryptographic properties of paper in describing the benefits of the traditional paper and pencil ballot...
In my view, in a national, regional, local political ballot the decision of who can vote and who can not is fundamentally political. That means that local/regional/national politicians have decided on the policies determining who is in and who is out.
Not having read the proposal, it seems that Sovereign ignores this aspect, as it requires each individual that wants to be admitted on the 'electoral role' can also prove it meets the requirements set out in these policies, like living in the proper district, town, county or country or having the right age. Validating the required attributes and matching them to a unique person is a bit more involved then Sybil elimination.
With an electronic electoral role, a necessary prerequisite for correctly conducting an election, there exist two contradictory requirements: of protecting privacy of the voters and of having the ability to mount a challenge to the administrative decisions of inclusion or exclusion.
Another aspect of using blockchain is that it has latency in recording the votes, and the guarantee that it isn't modified cannot be given, we just need to realise that for the Blockchain in Bitcoin 70% of the mining power is located in China. No country can accept that its ballots are counted in a foreign country.

On “Driving The Last Spike

Visting the mining museum in Bochum(Germany) two years ago, a city with a long history of mining coal that is now really history, it became clear that modern mining for coal is fully mechanised and automated. The work down the shaft is still dark and dusty and involves handling very heavy equipment, it has little left of the heroic struggle with the hard rock and the coal in narrow seams.
Any underground coal mine that would reopen to benefit from the relaxed regulations would need to modernise its underground equipment to even have a chance to extract coal at a market price. Such a mine would hire only a very small fraction of its former staff.

On “A One Party Nation

With so much power in one party, a strategy for the extreme right, solidly at the core of that party, seems viable to get full control of ? of the states and then attempt to get rid of presidential term limits. That would allow them to have Trump as president for live. With Trump only interested in his own ego, the party extremist can essentially do what they like. In particular they could permanently dismantle the demographic time bomb by disenfranchising the votes for those minorities, and so assure themselves of support of xenophobic voters.
More moderate republican, those who actually believe in democracy, will go along for a long while as there conservative wishes are also being fulfilled. Until it is too late, and they too will be marginalized.
Just a possibility. Not even improbable. It has happened before.
Very scary stuff.

On “A Comment About Comments

I reported the last 'bad comment' and got a nice checkmark. Great 'hacking.'
However, after reloading the page, as a test, neither checkmark or the report button was visible. Not sure this is the intended effect.

*Comment archive for non-registered commenters assembled by email address as provided.