Category Archives: News

Life and death on the court

Decades ago, I was a single issue voter. The Democratic party’s position on abortion was sufficient for me to cast a vote for Kerry. No other issue was required. I could have differed from them on every single other issue, and I still would have voted Democrat. At the time, of course, I’d also come to believe that I’d been greatly and sadly mistaken in accepting the WMD justification for the war in Iraq, and I probably would have voted for Kerry on that basis alone as well.

On the one hand, you could argue that I could and should continue to vote Democrat for reproductive rights alone, since if we’d had Democratic presidents, abortion would still be universally legal in the US today. However, since 2004, we’ve had 12 years of Democratic presidency and 8 years of Republican presidency, and the Supreme Court has shifted from 5-4 left-leaning to 6-3 conservative. All I can conclude from this is that Democrats are wildly incompetent.

Right now, we have Sotomayor, a T1 diabetic at 69 years old. We have probably 50/50 odds in terms of who the next president will be. Life expectancy for a T1 diabetic is optimistically 65 to 72 – Sotomayor is 69. That is, she could drop dead at any minute (just like Biden). If the Dems had any sense, she would have stepped down six months ago. I realize she, like most people, does not want to confront her own mortality, but this is ridiculous. There is a 50/50 chance Trump is going to win, and I’d say a 50/50 chance that if he does, Sotomayor will be forced to step down due to health, and the court will go 7-2. If that happens, quite apart from my personal views, it will be an absolute disaster for the country. The next Democratic president will be under incredible pressure to pack the court. Angry left-leaning types will threaten revolution. All this can be avoided for sure if S steps down and is replaced by a healthy 50-year-old left-leaning justice.

From the Hill:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) declared that the talk is “nonsense” and said she was surprised that this issue has entered the discourse. 

“Where did this come from?” Warren said. “I don’t want to add any fuel to the fire on this. I think she’s doing a great job, and I am grateful for her public service.”

I dislike Warren for many reasons, but I’ll certainly add this to the list. SHE too is very old and should step aside for younger blood, but that’s beside the point.

“She’s not 70. I might remind some of my colleagues to look around, check their birth certificate,” Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a Judiciary Committee member, told The Hill. “She’s going full speed ahead. I’m not aware of significant issues, and I am aware of extraordinary competence.”

“This is not an RGB situation,” he added, using the common abbreviation of Ginsburg’s name. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also told reporters Monday that he wants Sotomayor to remain on the high court.

A number of Democrats indicated they were floored that this conversation is even happening, as Sotomayor has given no public signals she is considering such a move or that her health has changed recently.

“I think she’s doing a great job, and I think she should stay. I’m a little baffled by [the chatter],” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said.

Is there no one in office in this country with some backbone and willingness to do and say what’s right for the country as opposed to their own personal interests? If a leading Democrat would stand up and state the obvious, I swear I would support that individual for president. We’ll end up with a 7-2 court, and people will blame Trump, and whichever right-leaning justice has the misfortune to be appointed, but Trump will literally be doing the job 50% of the populace elects him for. Why are the Democrats and Biden failing to do the job that 51% of the populace elected THEM for? Why does Sotomayor consider her personal ambition and career more important than the future of the country?

Sensible commentary from the HuffPost:

Supreme Court justices have made hundreds of trips and public appearances in recent years. But only one sitting justice appears to have taken the unusual step of traveling with a medic: 69-year-old Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

There are towering stakes for Sotomayor’s ability to remain a Supreme Court justice. At 69, she is beyond conventional retirement age and is the oldest of three Democratic-appointed justices remaining on the court.

Her dissents, with their trademark clarity and righteousness, have made her a favorite of many liberals. But the window in which President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats have an all-but-guaranteed ability to appoint her replacement is rapidly closing. 

“It’s fair to point all this out,” said Gabe Roth, the executive director of Fix the Court, which sued to release the documents.

In August, he noted, Sotomayor will have spent 15 years on the court.

“Fifteen years was the average tenure for … [U.S.] justices for the first 150 years of our republic,” Roth said. “In the last 55 years, that number has now doubled. But the idea that Justice Sotomayor might be considering staying on the court until, I don’t know, Naomi Biden [the president’s granddaughter] is president, is probably not something a lot of folks would want to see.”

Sotomayor appears to be the only justice for whom security agents are required to wear personal protective equipment, per the documents. But Sotomayor’s caution around COVID-19 due to her preexisting condition is already public knowledge. Sotomayor avoided in-person oral arguments until early 2022, and she was the only justice seen wearing a mask when she returned.

As for Sotomayor, privately, Democrats have told reporters they are worried about the optics of pressuring the first Latina justice to step down.

RBG’s failure to step down forever tainted – I would say destroyed – her legacy. The case for Sotomayor to step down is just as strong as it was for RBG; it’s just not as clear to the average person, since most people are not aware that T1 diabetes will reduces your life expectancy by around ten years. Sotomayor’s “effective” age is 79, not 69.

Good news

Is this not awesome?

“To achieve this result, the researchers first implanted electrodes in Mr. Oskam’s skull and spine. The team then used a machine-learning program to observe which parts of the brain lit up as he tried to move different parts of his body. This thought decoder was able to match the activity of certain electrodes with particular intentions: One configuration lit up whenever Mr. Oskam tried to move his ankles, another when he tried to move his hips.”

“Over the next few months, the researchers fine-tuned the brain-spine interface to better fit basic actions like walking and standing. Mr. Oskam gained a somewhat healthy-looking gait and was able to traverse steps and ramps with relative ease, even after months without treatment. Moreover, after a year in treatment, he began noticing clear improvements in his movement without the aid of the brain-spine interface. The researchers documented these improvements in weight-bearing, balancing and walking tests.

Now, Mr. Oskam can walk in a limited way around his house, get in and out of a car and stand at a bar for a drink. For the first time, he said, he feels like he is the one in control.”

It’s worth reading the whole article in my opinion. What a breakthrough! And it seems like the type of breakthrough that will dramatically improve with time and research. For example, the article now that this does not yet restore upper body movement. But that seems like the sort of thing that could be developed with time.

“Subtle intentions in the brain are difficult to distinguish, and although the current brain-spine interface is suitable for walking, the same probably cannot be said for restoring upper body movement.”

If I had unlimited money, I’d go back to school and work on something like this.