Don’t Get To “Yes”

Fraudsters and scammers are wily pieces of crap who are basically the scum of the earth.  But you have to grudgingly give them credit:  you never know what they’re going to think of next, and when it comes to taking criminal advantage of the decency and kindheartedness of many people, they have no equal.

101386023-183418541-1910x1000Consider what police are saying about the latest scam.  You get a phone call out of the blue from a number that your phone identifies as from your area code, making you much more likely to answer it because it could be a friend or family member calling in an emergency from a strange local number.  The person on the other ends starts yakking, and early in the conversation the person says “Can you hear me?”  Most people, of course, will say “yes” — and that starts them on the road to perdition.

Why?  Because your “yes” answer is recorded, and then used to indicate your assent to some unwanted product or service.  And if you try to argue that you never agreed to get that magazine subscription or internet debugging service, the recording of your “yes” answer gets used as evidence that you in fact agreed.  In the worst case, the scammer has your credit card number and uses the “yes” with a third party to authorize charges for goods that the crook gets but you are billed for.

It’s tough, because many of us are trained to be polite, even in response to an unwanted call.  We listen to the pitch about the charitable opportunity or the policeman’s benevolent fund and look for an opportunity to say, “thanks, but no thanks.”  But now the advice from law enforcement is to not say anything — and if you’re asked “Can you hear me?,” hang up immediately.

In this case, you just don’t want to get to “yes.”

Looking To Fill The “Stolen Seat”

Last night President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, to fill the vacant seat on the United States Supreme Court.  His formal nomination triggers the start of what will undoubtedly be a bruising confirmation process, with some Democrats already promising to do everything they can to prevent seating Gorsuch on the high court.

US-POLITICS-COURT-NOMINATIONThere are three reasons for this.  First, the Supreme Court has assumed an increasingly important role in the American political process over the last 70 years, with people at all points on the political spectrum looking for the judiciary to recognize a new right, provide a remedy, issue an injunction, or overturn a statute or executive action.  The Supreme Court is the head of the judicial branch, and every year, the Court accepts and decides cases that require it to tackle difficult issues — some constitutional, some statutory, some procedural — that can have broad ramifications for people, businesses, the legal system, and how government works.

Second, as the importance of the Supreme Court has increased, the process for nominating, reviewing, and approving potential Supreme Court justices has changed.  Republicans blame Democrats for the growing politicization of the Supreme Court confirmation process, and Democrats blame Republicans, but no one doubts that we have moved into a new era of “extreme vetting.”  Nominees not only have their credentials, backgrounds, and prior opinions scrutinized for the tiniest kernel of a potential argument against nomination, but advocacy groups immediately declare sides and start their scorched-earth campaigns before the nomination speech is even completed.  Last night, only a few minutes after Gorsuch was nominated by President Trump, an anti-confirmation demonstration began on the Supreme Court steps, and opponents of the Gorsuch nomination appeared on the cable news shows, describing him in the darkest, most ominous terms imaginable.

And third, the atmosphere has become even more poisonous because the seat on the Supreme Court Gorsuch has been nominated to fill has been vacant for almost a full year, and the Republicans in the Senate refused to take any action on Merrick Garland, the jurist that President Obama nominated to fill that seat.  That’s why the New York Times, in an editorial today, calls the vacancy the “stolen seat” — reasoning that if the Senate had just acted properly last year, Garland would have been confirmed, and the balance of power on the Supreme Court would already be changed.  The Times editorial castigates the Senate Republicans for obstructionism and abuse of power in their treatment of the Garland nomination, but seems to also implicitly encourage — with a wink and a nod — Senate Democrats to respond to the Gorsuch nomination in kind.

So now we’ve got a Supreme Court nominee who has served on the federal appellate bench for 10 years, has all of the educational bona fides you would wish, and is classified by some as a “very conservative” judge.  I’m interested in seeing how the confirmation process plays out and what is brought out about Gorsuch’s background and judicial opinions — but that means the confirmation process has to actually start.  Here, too, as in other areas I’ve pointed out recently, Congress needs to do its job.  The Republicans need to shut up about the “nuclear option” that Harry Reid unwisely imposed, and the Democrats need to get over the Garland nomination inaction, and both sides need to acknowledge that the Supreme Court has nine seats that can only be filled if the Senate acts and start to address the Gorsuch nomination on its own merits.

One other thing:  as the current Supreme Court justices age, delay and inaction is not an option.  If we don’t get over this self-imposed roadblock to the proper functioning of our government, we might soon have another vacancy to fill, and another.  If the Republicans and Democrats don’t get over their political titting for tatting, we might end up with a gradually vanishing Supreme Court.