Mr. Gorsuch goes to Washington

It was below freezing temperatures one January evening in 2009 in Illinois when a man named Alphonse Maddin, driving a truck attached to a trailer for TransAm Trucking, found himself stranded shortly before midnight.

It turned out his truck was fine, but the trailer’s brake stopped working, and thus couldn’t be towed along. Upon returning to his truck, the heat also wasn’t functioning.

Maddin notified TransAm, which told him to wait for help. He did. Hours passed, and Maddin fell asleep. When he awoke, he felt numbness in his torso and feet. He called TransAM again, which told him to keep waiting, or to drag the trailer on its frozen brakes.

Not long after, Maddin, fearing for his life, unhitched the trailer and took off. Assistance eventually arrived and the trailer was recovered.

Maddin was fired for disobeying orders.

He later sued the company, under a statute by the Department of Labor that says employees do not have to operate their vehicle if they have reasonable apprehension about a serious injury.

TransAm contended that Maddin was not protected by this statute because he did, in fact, operate his vehicle.

An independent arbiter ruled in Maddin’s favor that the dismissal was illegal. Appeals ensued, and an appellate court of three judges backed the arbiter’s decision, ruling 2-1 in favor of Maddin.

The one man who ruled in favor of TransAm?

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Neil Gorsuch hearing

Now I’m not telling you this story to make you mad, or to confirm anyone’s worst fear about this judge who has been previously hailed for his conservative rulings.

In fact, I was out sick from work today, and watched a significant chunk of Gorsuch’s hearing before the Senate. From what I saw, I don’t think anybody could have watched the proceedings and thought that he is anything but an extremely intelligent man.

He clearly takes his job as an interpreter of the law very seriously, and was very disciplined in his responses to not indicate that he would have any premeditated ideological leanings.

So if he was conning us, then he sure fooled me.

Some of the highlights included his statement that “No man is above the law,” when asked about potential presidential overreach; and when asked how he would have responded if Trump asked him to reverse Roe vs. Wade (which legalized abortion nationally), he said “I would have walked out the door.”

But the reason I shared that story in the beginning is because it is clear that Gorsuch interprets rules and the law literally, regardless of morality. And that is a good or bad thing, depending on how you choose to perceive it.

In his minority opinion, Gorsuch agreed that since Maddin did indeed operate his vehicle, he lost protection under the Department of Labor statute, because that is exactly how it is worded.

Gorsuch will almost certainly be confirmed. And people can take heart in knowing that he is a competent judge who understands that the law exists to hold everybody in this country accountable, no matter how powerful or influential they are.

But his tenure as a justice of our nation’s highest court will always be questioned, because of the circumstances in which he eventually obtained the seat, and because of the character of the man who selected him.

Never forget Merrick Garland. (Odds say we all forget by June).

And if you’re thinking that there’s no way I watched an entire day of of Supreme Court hearings and was not once tempted to run out to Taco Bell to get a Taco Supreme… then you’d be 100 percent right.

From refugee drama to legal drama

From 1981 to 1983, Anne Gorsuch Burford served as the director of the Environmental Protection Agency. During her tenure, she drastically cut the agency’s budget by 22 percent, reduced clean water regulations, cut funding for environmental research and enforcement, and relaxed anti-pollution laws.

In other words, she led the EPA the same way environmentalists fear that Trump nominee Scott Pruitt will run the agency.

Burford did not last very long. Less than two years into the job, she resigned under fire during a scandal over mismanagement of a program involving hazardous waste clean-up.

On Tuesday, her son, Federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated to a seat on the United States Supreme Court, our highest court in the land.

Now his mother’s ideologies and how it influenced the way she led the EPA is not, nor should it be, an indictment on how Neil Gorsuch will act as a Supreme Court justice, but given his steady record of conservative decisions in the mold of the late justice Antonin Scalia, it’s fair to assume there will not be much separation.

By all accounts, Gorsuch is a very accomplished and thoughtful justice, and having been educated at Columbia University, the University of Oxford and Harvard University – where he was allegedly a classmate of Barack Obama – he is obviously very intelligent.

neil-gorsuch

But no matter how qualified or competent he is, it was never going to make liberals happy when you consider his seat was first stolen from Obama appointee Merrick Garland.

Remember that? When, a year ago, Senate President Mitch McConnell vowed that the Senate would not schedule a hearing for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, even though he had 11 months left in his term?

And then Republicans actually went through with the unprecedented level of obstructionism?

And then Trump won?

And then when Senate Democrats threatened to filibuster the nominee so he never gets confirmed, Republicans blasted them for their partisan noncooperation?

It makes it very difficult to have a vested interest in politics when the people who are in charge of making our country’s most important decisions are so morally dubious, and without even trying to hide it.

But this is the day and age of hyper-vigilance, even over seemingly tedious issues. When other time did we care so much about emoluments clauses, or whether the education secretary gets enough votes to be confirmed?

Or who the deputy attorney general of the United States is?

The reason we know that now is because the woman who most recently held that position, Sally Yates, was subsequently elevated to Acting D.A. following Trump’s inauguration while Jeff Sessions’s nomination continues to be debated.

sally-yates

And on Monday, Yates became a hero and martyr to the left when she publicly stated that as long as she served as acting D.A., Trump’s immigration ban would not be defended in courts. She was fired shortly after.

The incident rekindled memories of the Sunday Night Massacre on October 20, 1973, When the two top attorney generals resigned in protest after refusing Nixon’s order to fire the special prosecutor who was investigating him for Watergate.

Though Yates’s decision to go public with her stance was described by many legal experts as unnecessary – especially since she was likely on her way out of the door within days, once Sessions is confirmed — it was clearly a moral stand, and one that she will likely be long remembered for.

Shortly after, videos surfaced of her confirmation for Deputy D.A. under the Obama administration, when, in the ultimate twist of irony, Senator Jeff Sessions asked her if she would be willing to stand up to the president, to which she replied that she would.

In short, between the newly coined ‘Monday Night Massacre’ and the Supreme Court nominee, this is the most interesting time in America for legal drama since Boston Legal was on the air.

But credit Sally Yates for being the first person in power to stand up to Trump.

Hopefully more will follow.

Kim Kardashian’s robbery is now forever logged in Supreme Court records

Kim Kardashian or the vice presidential debate … Kim Kardashian or the vice presidential debate …

Easy decision.

In a way, these last couple of weeks have been just as thrilling for pop culture fanatics as they’ve been for political junkies, between the abrupt end of ‘Brangelina,’ and more recently, the shockingly violent robbery of Kim Kardashian in Paris.

The details sounds like something straight out of a Taken movie. Kardashian, in an exotic foreign country, was bound and robbed at gunpoint in her hotel room, and the thieves ran off with $11 million dollars worth of her jewelry, including a $4 million dollar ring.

Somehow, Kardashian reportedly broke out of her bindings following the robbery and managed to call police. Because, you know, we all saw that episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians where all three sisters were trained by escape artist David Blaine.

Kardashian Breyer.jpg

Immediately following the burglary, her husband, Kanye West, ended his set early at a musical festival in New York City, citing a family emergency.  (There’s an “I’mma let you finish” joke here somewhere, right?)

And that’s what we know.

And just because everyone loves to theorize, there is actually conversation flowing through the Internet that the robbery might have been staged.

Admittedly, it is pretty surprising to hear that one of the more high-profile celebrities in the world was roaming a foreign country without a bodyguard. But other speculation revolves around a possible insurance fraud scheme, or just a desperate act for sheer publicity — which we all know is the lifeblood for the Kardashians.

Amazingly, the people floating these theories aren’t just celebrity bloggers and bored Reddit users — but Supreme Court justices.

You heard that right. Justice Stephen Breyer — who, mind you, is 78 years old, so he’s not even one of the hip 50-something year old judges — while hearing oral arguments for a case on Tuesday, dropped the Kardashian name.

The case involved bank fraud, with a public defender arguing that it’s not fraudalent if the bank didn’t end up losing any money in the end. Breyer, who disagreed with the argument, analogized that if Kardashian has insurance on her jewelry and doesn’t lose any money over it, is it not still theft?

His exact words were: “Even Kardashian’s thief, if there is one, believes that all that jewelry is insured. Indeed over insured. So it’s not theft?”

If there is one.

This is truly a memorable day for America, for it officially ensured that the Kardashian named will forever be etched into our history books. Law students in years to come, while studying cases involving fraud, will one day stumble upon a reference of Kim Kardashian. Further interested, they will research her name, and come across a reality show and a sex tape.

And furthermore, we have finally reached the day where government and Kardashian intersect. Until then, the closest we came was when Obama calling Kanye West a jackass.

Maybe we should stop worrying about the fate of the Supreme Court, and who the ninth justice will be.

If today was any indication, the court seems to be getting along just fine and dandy.

That was sarcasm.

We are screwed.

Meet Marcus Willis, the Iceland of tennis

Somebody whose come across this blog post with no further context might be a bit confused by the title. But for those who read yesterday’s post, about Iceland’s unlikely triumph over England in the European Championships, it will be a smooth transition.

But before I hit my stride on today’s topic — in which, for better or worse, there is no coming back from — I must once again comment on the global significance of the current events that have taken place recently.

I haven’t even gotten to touch on the recent death of two sports icons, Pat Summitt, a legendary and historically successful women’s college basketball coach who was a pioneer for female athletics, and football coach Buddy Ryan, a defensive genius who helped coach my beloved New York Jets to their only Super Bowl win in 1969, and whose son, Rex, led the Jets to their most successful back-to-back seasons I’ve witnessed since I’ve been supporting the team.

Rest in peace. Your respective impacts on this world will be felt for years to come.

And then there was the devastating suicide bombings inside the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on Tuesday night, one of the world’s major transit hubs, which killed 42 people and injured more than 200. ISIS is suspected — though it’s not confirmed — to have committed the attacks.

Istanbul airport

What more is there to say? The world can too often be a devastating place.

Finally, the Supreme Court made a few landmark decisions this week, most notably dismissing recent Texas laws that created too many restrictions for women seeking abortion as unconstitutional. The decision, a 5-3 vote, redefined the most recent notable abortion decision, “Planned Parenthood vs. Casey” in 1992, which had allowed abortion clinics to create certain restrictions. But this ruling clearly draws a line in the sand and is a major victory for abortion advocates.

OK, that’s all done now. You have all been briefed. Back to sports.

I informed you all just how miraculous Iceland’s plight is in the European soccer championships this year. Well, somehow, the team might have been outshone.

Wimbledon, the world’s most prominent tennis tournament and the only one with a dress code, is currently ongoing in England.

Earlier on Wednesday, one of the most unlikeliest of competitors got to play against the best tennis player of our generation and arguably the best player in the history of the sport.

Marcus Willis, of England, is ranked 772nd in the world. He’s a part-time tennis instructorMarcus Willis tennis who almost quit playing the sport professionally earlier this year. He won six qualifying matches just to make the tournament, and then, somehow, went on to win his first round match against 54th-ranked Ricardas Berankis, the highest ranked Lithuanian player of all time, in his first ever official tour match.

That paired him against Roger Federer, 17-time grand slam winner and 7-time Wimbledon champion, in Round 2. Federer crushed him. But there were entertaining volleys along the way, and he was treated by his home crowd as a hero.

That, my friends, is what sports is all about.

He’s 772nd in the world. That’s like the most talented player at your local rec center making Wimbledon. That’s like the best pitcher in a beer league starting the World Series.

By advancing to the second round, Willis earned 50,000 pounds. In his entire career before that, he had earned about 220,000 pounds combined.

An with his accomplishment, Willis has earned even more an important pound.

A fist pound. From me.

It’s just a notch below a victory at Wimbledon.

This baseball player took “Take Your Kids to Work Day” a little too literally

As I write this, we are nine hours into the opening day of March Madness, and amazingly, my bracket is not entirely screwed!

As a matter of fact, of the eight finished results from today, I have somehow gotten them all right. And that includes four upsets, two of them being a 12 seed over a 5 seed.

I literally filled my bracket out at work within a matter of two minutes, and putting zero thought into my picks. I just went with my gut. I even named my bracket “I won’t win.”

Maybe that’s the lesson: don’t try, and you will succeed.March Madness

That one is free, kids. Next life lesson, I’m charging.

One more thing before I move on to today’s topic — I wrote a halfhearted, mostly satirical post yesterday about Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland.

But then I watched the speech that Garland delivered on the White House lawn yesterday. He broke into tears. His wife cried watching him because she was so proud. This is the highest point of his career after serving almost 20 years as a federal judge, and by all accounts he is a highly respected and upstanding man.

And because of petty politicking, he won’t even get a fair shake. It’s disgraceful.

It’s just so disenchanting to me, as a citizen of this country, that the officials we elected are depriving a good, honest man of a position he deserves, that he’s worked his whole life to achieve, simply because he’s become an unwitting pawn in a political chess match.

To me, this is as disappointing as anything I’ve seen in American politics over the past year, and that’s saying a lot.

Alright, let’s go to today’s top story. Baseball. America’s pastime. The game that every child grows up watching, and craving nothing but to one day be able to put on that glove, step onto a baseball field and toss around a ball with his or her father.

Unless, of course, your father plays for the Chicago White Sox.

Now this is quite the interesting story. On Tuesday, 36-year-old Adam LaRoche, a first baseman for the White Sox, announced he was retiring. Now this in itself is not strange. He’s up there in age, and he’s coming off a poor year in which he barely hit above .200.

Adam LaRoche.jpgWhat is weird, though, is that he was signed under contract this season for $13 million. By walking away, he foregoes that money.

Hours later, the story came out. LaRoche apparently always brought his 14-year-old son, Drake, into the clubhouse. Like every day. He was well-liked among his teammates and became something of an honorary team member.

Earlier this week, a team executive, Ken Williams, citing a desire for his team to be fully focused on the coming season, asked LaRoche to scale back his son’s presence in the clubhouse.

LaRoche chose family over career. He retired.

The story has started a debate about the merits of having your kids in the workplace. And when you think about it, what job exists in which it is acceptable to bring your kid to every day? On top of that, baseball clubhouses, as a nearly all-male environment, are notorious for lewd conversations and other off-color shenanigans.

Imagine a co-worker at your job bringing their child into your office every single day. Not once a month, or once a week — every day. 

Heck, I always thought parents appreciated a few hours of work each day as a means of escape from their kids. But what do I know?

Regardless of how you feel about this, there’s no doubt the White Sox come off looking like the bad guys — their team considered boycotting a subsequent Spring Training game in response to the incident — and you also have to appreciate Adam LaRoche’s values.

That being said, if I’m his kid, I’m saying, “Dad, go to work. I’ll miss you a little, but I’ll get over it when we’re $13 million richer.”

Well, at least they’ll have plenty of time to play catch this year. In fact, Adam better soak in that family time for the time being.

Because sometime tells me when Drake is priced out of the college of his choice four years from now, he will not want to look his dad in the eye anymore.

Who Obama really should have nominated for the Supreme Court

What a crazy day, right? Everywhere you turned there was chatter about who President Obama nominated for the Supreme Court. It was the only thing anyone talked about today and it almost seemed like nothing else in the world even happened besides that!

Oh. What’s that you say? You all have actual lives and aren’t really all that invested in this stuff?

I wonder what that’s like.

Merrick Garland.jpg

But anyway, whether you care about it or not, you probably did hear about it as some point today. Despite threats from Republican leaders that they would not even consider a nomination for the Supreme Court following last month’s death of Antonin Scalia, Obama went ahead with his Constitutional obligations and selected one anyway.

His selection of Merrick Garland, a 63-year-old, highly respected, centrist judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, who over his 19-year career as a federal judge has earned praise from both sides of the political aisle, is a typical, savvy Obama move.

It’s as fair of a choice at it gets, and dares Republicans to live up to their promise to obstruct any nomination.

And while I think Mr. Garland is perfectly fine, I think Obama could have done better. Indeed, I even made a list recently of who I think should have been considered.

And I’m more than happy to share it with you.

Barack Obama.pngBarack Obama

What better way for Obama to give the middle finger to Republican legislators, who have done everything in their power to make his presidency as miserable as possible the last eight years, than to nominate himself?

And on top of that, he’s qualified for the job! He’s a graduate of Harvard Law School and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years.

Plus, how awesome would it have been if he stood in the White House Rose Garden and announced, “My nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court is … me.” And then dropped the mic, ripped off his suit to reveal a judge’s robe while the entrance music for Stone Cold Steve Austin played in the background?

Missed opportunity. #ThanksObama.

Saul GoodmanSaul Goodman

Maybe you don’t appreciate the way he goes about his business, but the man knows how to get things done. He’s a fixer. And let’s face it, if he could keep Walter White out of trouble, then I think we can safely say America is in good hands if he’s the one making all of our important decisions.

Yes, I am aware that he is a television show character, but I’ve thought about this. We’ll let Bob Odenkirk sit on the bench, but he must remain in method as Saul Goodman every second he is on the job.

We can arrange it around his “Better Call Saul” schedule, because we ain’t canceling that shit, Supreme Court nominee or not.

2 Chainz.jpg2 Chainz

I’ll admit I know very little about this man, but there is no question that the court could use a little more diversity. Clarence Thomas is getting a little lonely up there.

And who better to be the standard-bearer of our country’s judicial process than a man named 2 Chainz? I mean, I’m sure he named himself that out of nothing but sheer respect and admiration for our country’s penal system.

Also, don’t lie. You’d pay money to hear a law clerk say “All rise for The Honorable 2 Chainz” every time he entered a court room.

The Bill from School House RockBillSHR.jpg

This character represents most people’s first introduction into the legal process. We sang along. We danced. We even still look it up on YouTube every now and then out of nostalgia.

He’s not only an icon of American law, but he’s so beloved that there is just no way — no way — the Republicans could have rejected him if he was nominated. The public outcry would have been too great.

The protests at Trump rallies would have nothing on this.

Burrito Supreme.jpgA burrito supreme

Let’s all be real. When we hear the word “supreme,” we don’t first think about the Supreme Court.

Rather, our mouths begin watering at the thought of a burrito supreme from Taco Bell. That savory, meaty substance they tell us is beef, layered with allegedly fresh tomatoes, lettuce and cheese topped with a white substance I truly hope is sour cream. How can anybody resist?

Taco Bell is America. Nothing would have bridged the political divide in our country more than this.

But, alas, Obama chose to gloss over these surefire options and choose a man named Merrick Garland.

That name sounds so dull that Republicans won’t choose not to vote on him out of ideology, but instead, they’ll just lose interest in him before they even finish saying it aloud.

It bears repeating.

Thanks Obama.

U.S. Congress, literally the worst people on Earth

Emotions were running high a week ago when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly. We’re in the middle of a crazy election. Partisanship was fashionable, and it’s understandable that U.S. Senators would be quick to react before really thinking things through.

But now that we’ve had about 10 days to let it all sink in, and to allow emotions to cool, we could expected our elected officials to start acting rationally, right?

Oh, how silly of me. I forgot. This is America.

Mitch McConnell and other prominent Senate Republicans held firm on their promise today to not even meet with any nomination President Obama makes to the Supreme Court, putting in motion a singular level of obstructionism that our country has never seen before.

Supreme Court.jpg

Any precedent that GOP lawmakers tried to use to justify their behavior has failed dismally, as John Oliver eloquently pointed out on the recent Last Week Tonight.

At this point, they’re just making it up as they go along.

The U.S. Constitution dictates that the sitting president fills any Supreme Court vacancies, with Senate approval. It’s well within the Senate’s right to decline a nomination. It happens often. But to overtly declare before the fact that you will not even consider any nominee put forth by the president is an egregious abdication of one’s civic responsibilities.

In what other position in America is it acceptable to refuse to do your job? And not just refuse to do it — but to tell everybody beforehand that you’re not going to do it?

A job, no less, that people pick you for out of confidence that you will perform it to the best of your abilities?

The Senate has never taken longer than 125 days to vote on a president’s Supreme Court nomination. Once Obama makes his choice, it will be more than 300 days until he leaves office.

If this isn’t evidence that our government’s two-part system is broken, I don’t know what is.

It is worth noting that at least two Senate Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois, have broken ranks from their party in saying that they would vote on a nominee. It’s a stance that will make them unpopular within the establishment, but says plenty about their character and courage. Unfortunately, there are 52 others that probably do not feel the same way.

We elect Congressmen and women to make decisions. To represent their constituency. We don’t send them to Washington on our behalf to not do their job. How pathetic must we look in the eyes of other countries when our most powerful elected officials renounce their responsibilities?

I can’t speak for any one else, but obviously, this pisses me off. And if I lived in a state in which its Senator decided not to do their own job, then I sure as hell would not vote for them again.

If a Democrat wins the presidency and Republicans maintain the Senate, would they hold off on confirming a nominee for four more years? Eight years, even?

Honestly, nothing would surprise me anymore.