Fixing the Presidency, Part I: The Supreme Court

It’s been hard to start this one because with new terrible things happening every day, all my dumb ideas feel like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Sometimes I don’t feel like there’s a lot I can do, but one of the things I’m good at is coming up with dumb ideas for fixing things and hopefully get people talking about changes. Or yelling at me about how dumb my ideas are. Either way.

I think we’re so focused on what’s going on this year (or this month, or this day, or this hour) that we’ve forgotten about the first train wreck that got us here, namely the 2016 election. I can’t image anyone who cared who won the election can be happy with the process. I want to talk about how we can start to fix how we elect Presidents. There are so many things that went wrong (none of which have to do with the “wrong” candidate winning) that I think extreme Constitutional reform needs to be talked about.

There was so much heat generated during 2016 and the years leading up to that year’s election. The heat needs to be turned down. One of the things I think is wrong with our elections is that the President simply has too much power. One of the rallying cries we hear from both major parties is “you have to vote for us, think about the Supreme Court!” But why do we give the President so much power over our judicial branch? I think one of the ways we can turn the temperature down on our elections is to lessen — not eliminate, but lessen — the President’s influence on the Supreme Court. Here’s my idea. As I’m sure will become immediately apparent, I haven’t formally studied the Constitution one bit. I’ve read it at least! Several times!

  • Expand the Court to 15 seats. This gives each individual vote on the Court slightly less weight. Don’t panic if you think I’m giving anyone six free Supreme Court nominees; I’m not. Keep reading.
  • Each seat is for 15 years, not a lifetime. Current Supreme Court Justices are grandfathered in and will have their terms automatically renewed. New Justices will permanently leave the court at the end of their terms, however. The terms will be staggered so that (eventually) we get a new Justice every year. If a seat opens due to death or retirement, the chosen Justice serves for the remainder of that seat’s term, not 15 years.
  • New Supreme Court Justices are chosen randomly from a pool of eligible Circuit Court Judges. The Circuit Courts are the last level of courts an appeal goes to before it reaches the Supreme Court, and the process of appointing Circuit Court Justices is very similar to our current method of appointing Supreme Court Justices, but there’s a lot more of them. Read this Wikipedia entry if you want more information.
  • You are an eligible Circuit Court Justice if:
    • You are a Senior Circuit Court Justice,
    • you have never served on the Supreme Court before,
    • and there are no more than two Justices already on the Supreme Court that were appointed by the President who appointed you. That is, no President can have more than three appointees on the Supreme Court at once. 
  • Picky detail I: If there are no Senior Circuit Court Justices who are otherwise eligible, the eligibility pool will expand to include all Circuit Court Justices who have served at least five years. If there are still no eligible Justices, the pool will expand to all Circuit Court Justices regardless of how long they have served. If there are still no eligible Circuit Court Justices at that point, the Supreme Court seat will remain vacant for the rest of its term (yes, the whole 15 years if necessary). Under no circumstances will the three-justices-per-President quota be lifted.
  • Picky Detail II: Current court seats will be arranged in reverse order of seniority (remember, Justices currently on the court are grandfathered in and their terms will automatically renew). The most senior Justice’s term will expire next year, second most the year after next, etc. etc.
  • Every year the Supreme Court Justices will elect their own Chief Justice. Whoever gets the most votes wins. If there’s a tie, they revote until there is no tie.
  • No stalling on Circuit Court Justice appointments. When a Circuit Court seat opens, the President has 30 days to nominate a Justice, and the Senate must vote on that appointee within 60 days, even if the President who made the appointment’s term has expired. If the Senate isn’t in session they must vote on the nominee within 30 days of reconvening, or within 60 days of nomination, whichever comes last.

If you’ve made it all the way down here, I thank you. I think I can bring all parties together by how much they hate my proposal. Comments are open but moderated, so play nicely — I joke about people yelling at me, but actual hostile posts won’t be approved. Posts directly bringing current events into the discussion won’t be approved either.

The Smacky Basketball League

I love minor-league sports, but not as an investment. I’ve always thought that if you ever considered investing in minor-league sports, a better investment would be to go to the bank, take out all of your money, put it into a nice pile, and set it on fire. The money you salvage after the fire goes out will be more money than what you’d have left after your adventure in the minor leagues.

That being said, I’ve always wanted to try starting a minor league — in any sport, really. Not because I ache to waste massive amounts of money, but because I want to make up my own rules for the game. The ABA popularized the 3-point shot in the 1970s and its 21st-century namesake has the wonderful 3-D rule. It seemed that every new football league in the US had some weird idea as to what to do with the extra point. There were so many attempts at pro soccer in the 1970s and 1980s that had unbelievable rules to try and get Americans interested in soccer. New leagues usually mean new rules.

Luckily for me, past poor financial decisions have made this an impossibility for me. I’m never going to have enough money to just throw away on a minor league, which is probably a good thing. But I still have ideas. Ridiculous ideas — if your minor league isn’t full of ridiculous ideas you are doing something wrong. Minor-league baseball is well-known for wacky promotions between innings, but I don’t think that goes far enough. Even the 21st-century ABA’s 3D rule doesn’t go far enough.

Let’s face it: in the minors, especially the unaffiliated minors, the level of talent is going to be light-years behind the kind of talent people can stay home and watch on TV. You need a lot of sauce to cover up the taste of that meat.

Let’s make some sauce. I’m going to start with basketball because back in the day that was the sport I watched and understood the most.

We’re going to start with the NCAA rulebook, except we’ll just use whatever three-point line the venue already has on the floor (the furthest away one if they have more than one). No point in mucking around with tape on the floor if we have a decent venue that doesn’t have their three-point line in the “correct” space. And we’ll have six fouls to foul out, not five.

No free throws. Free throws are boring. Instead we’ll have power plays.

The fouling player has to stand off court just outside the baseline, between the sideline and the three-point line. The fouling team must play 4-on-5 defense until they get the ball back (via rebound, offensive foul, violation or turnover, or if the offense scores).

The fouled team can also choose to run 30 seconds off the clock and get the ball without a power play, which should put an end to fouling at the end of games to stop the clock.

If play is stopped during a power play, we don’t play five-on-three; instead, if the fouled team scores on the subsequent power play, the basket is worth one extra point. There’s no limit to how many extra points can be tacked on via defensive fouls.

Technical and flagrant fouls would count as two fouls towards fouling out but otherwise play out just like regular fouls would.

Thirty-second play clock, not a shot clock. If you take a shot, miss, and get the rebound, too bad: the clock doesn’t reset. You have 30 seconds to score a basket, period. I’m making things harder on the defense so let’s give them a break in other ways.

This makes power plays a little bit more reasonable. I can imagine teams with a lead taking lousy shots on power plays just to reset the shot clock and run more time off the game clock. This rule puts a stop to that.

Also, teams can take as much time as they want to advance the ball past midcourt and there is no backcourt rule. You have a 30-second play clock and that should be enough incentive to get the ball upcourt. I don’t think these rules are necessary anymore and I never liked them anyway.

Different scoring system. Shots inside the paint (except dunks) are one point. Dunks and shots inside the three-point line are two points. Outside the three-point line, three points. We’ll draw a line parallel to and directly under the backcourt; shots behind the basket are four points, except from the corners behind the three-point line; those are five points.

If the defense fouls a player attempting a shot that would have been worth more than two points, the subsequent power play basket (if there is one) will be worth that many more points (i.e, one extra point if it was a three, two if it was a four, and so on). Yes, this could lead to six-point layups. I’m fine with that. Low scores are boring.

Multiball! Yeah, no, although I love pinball I can’t think of a way to make this work and be fun both for the players and the fans. If you do, let me know.