Saturday, December 30, 2023

Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: The Parkview/Oakland Intersection

The city of Kalamazoo isn't finishing making life worse for motorists.  Its latest target is the intersection of Parkview/Whites Road and Oakland Drive.

Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: Bicycle Lanes
Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: Downtown Streets

This intersection has long been a problem for motorists.  Both roads are major thoroughfares and should be 4-5 lanes to move traffic efficiently through the city.  Sadly, the planners who designed Kalamazoo long ago made the right of way too narrow on most of these roads for this to be practical.  Only Parkview/Whites between Oakland and Westnedge is (mostly) four lanes.  In fact, it was only 20-30 years ago that Oakland (between Parkview and Kilgore) and Parkview (between Oakland and Greenleaf Boulevard) were widened from two to three lanes.

When traffic is heavy, it becomes difficult to move it all through the intersection in a timely manner, and traffic tends to back up on both roads.  To address this problem, a decade ago the city of Kalamazoo added extra through lanes to Parkview and Oakland to double the volume of traffic that could travel straight through the intersection.  The extra lanes end soon after the intersection, so drivers can merge into a single lane once they are safely past the traffic light.

This year, Kalamazoo's city planners decided to sabotage their work from a decade ago.  The extra through lanes have been eliminated by the addition of "bump-outs" at the intersection.  This would seem to create a safety hazard, since most of the lanes are still there, but they suddenly disappear at the intersection.

The motive for the change is baffling.  My best guess is that it is supposed to help pedestrians, on the theory that they can cross a three lane road, but find a four lane road an insuperable challenge.  Not surprisingly, the change has already made the intersection worse for drivers.

To add insult to injury, Whites road will soon undergo a "road diet", reducing from four lanes to three and further complicating life for Kalamazoo's motorists.  Driving in Kalamazoo will continue to get worse as long as the the same fools are in charge of the city.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

December 2023 Judiciary News

Nominations, Hearings, Confirmations:

Judiciary Committee:  The late senator Dianne Feinstein’s seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee will be filled by Laphonza Butler (D-CA), just as she filled Feinstein's senate seat.

Judiciary Committee:  Senate Ds are planning to subpoena conservative activists Harlan Crow, Robin Arkley, and Leonard Leo as part of their effort to smear conservative judges.  The committee stalled due to R opposition to the plan, including threats to subpoena numerous leftist individuals and organizations.

ND-OK:  Under questioning from Sen. John Kennedy, nominee Sara Hill was unable to explain the difference between a "stay" order and an "injunction" order.

SD-FL:  The White House finally reached a deal with Florida's R senators on judicial nominations.  Notably, the deal includes David Leibowitz, "nephew of billionaire Norman Braman, a longtime Rubio benefactor", who was considered but not nominated under Trump.


The Federal Judiciary:

Ethics:  The Supreme Court issued a code of ethics, largely codifying its existing practices.  While this is likely a response to leftist attacks on the court, it is unlikely that critics will be satisfied.

3rd Circuit:  Maryanne Trump Barry, older sister of former president Trump, died in November at age 86.  She was appointed to D-NJ by Reagan in 1983 and to the 3rd Circuit by Clinton in 1999.  She took senior status in 2011 and retired in 2019.

Vacancy Declarations:  There are now 97 current and future judicial vacancies.  New vacancies over the past month are listed below.
ED-LA: Eldon Fallon (Clinton) 1/1/24 (senior)
ED-MO: Ronnie White (Obama) 7/31/24 (retired)
ED-CA: Kimberly Mueller (Obama) 9/17/24 (senior)
D-MD: James Bredar (Obama) 4/30/24 (senior)
SD-OH: Algernon Marbley (Clinton) TBD (senior)
CD-IL: James Shadid (Obama) 9/27/24 (senior)
ND-CA: Edward Davila (Clinton) TBD (senior)
MD-PA: Malachy Mannion (Obama) 1/3/24 (senior)
D-AZ: G. Murray Snow (W) 10/21/24 (senior)
1st Circuit: William Kayatta (Obama) TBD (senior)
D-MA: Patti Saris (Clinton) TBD (senior)
ND-IL: Rebecca Pallmeyer (Clinton) 8/1/24 (senior)
MD-FL: Timothy Corrigan (W) 11/2/24 (senior)

State Supreme Courts:

Hawaii:  Governor Josh Green (D) nominated Lisa Ginoza and Vladimir Devens to fill the Hawaii Supreme Court seats vacated by Justices Michael Wilson and Paula Nakayama.  Ginoza is chief judge of the Intermediate Court of Appeals, and has served on it since 2010.  Devens is a labor attorney in private practice.

Idaho:  Governor Brad Little appointed Cynthia Meyer to the Idaho Supreme Court.  She was appointed a district judge by Butch Otter in 2015.  She was one of four people nominated by the Idaho Judicial Council for the seat being vacated by John Stegner.

Massachusetts:  Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice David Lowy will retire from the court on February 3, 2024 to become general counsel for University of Massachusetts.  He was appointed by Charlie Baker in 2016.  Governor Maura Healey (D) will appoint replacements for Lowy and Elspeth Cypher, who will retire on January 12. 

Missouri:  Governor Mike Parson (R) appointed Missouri Court of Appeals judge Ginger Gooch to the seat on the Missouri Supreme Court vacated by Justice Patricia Breckenridge.  She was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals in 2022.  The other two finalists for the position were Missouri Court of Appeals judges Michael Gardner and John Torbitzky, who were among 22 applicants for the position.  Gooch and Gardner were finalists for the previous vacancy in August.

New Hampshire:  New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Gary Hicks will be age-limited on November 30.  He was appointed by John Lynch (D) in 2006.  Governor Chris Sununu (R) has nominated Melissa Beth Countway to the seat.  She was appointed to the circuit court by Sununu in 2017 and was previously a county prosecutor.  If the NH Executive Council votes to confirm the nomination, the NH Supreme Court will have 4R and 1D appointees.

Pennsylvania:  Daniel McCaffery (D) defeated Carolyn Carluccio (R) 53-47 for an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  The seat was previously held by Max Baer (D), but had been open for a year after his death.  The court will again be 5D, 2R.

Tennessee:  Justice Roger Page will retire in August 2024.  He was appointed in 2016 by Bill Haslam.  Governor Bill Lee will get his third appointment to the court.

Wyoming:  Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Keith Kautz will leave the court on March 26 due to age limits.  He was appointed by Matt Mead in 2015.  Governor Mark Gordon (R) will get his second appointment to the court.


On Ed Whelan's Substack, "Confirmation Tales", recent posts deal with Bill Clinton's nomination of federal judges.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

October 2023 Judiciary News

Nominations, Hearings, Confirmations:

D-AK:  Senator Dan Sullivan (R) formed a new council to vet potential federal judges without involving Senator Lisa Murkowski (R).  One of three seats on D-AK has been vacant since 2021.

WD-NY: Colleen Holland-clerk for Colleen Wolford (WD-NY), Michael Telesca (WD-NY)
SD-TX: John A. Kazen-clerk for Robert Parker (ED-TX), Magistrate Judge (SD-TX)
D-HI: Micah W. J. Smith-clerk for Souter, Guido Calabresi (2nd Circuit), AUSA (D-HI)
D-NJ: Jamel Semper-AUSA (D-NJ)
D-OR: Mustafa Kasubhai-Magistrate Judge (D-OR)
ED-CA: Kirk Sherriff-AUSA (ED-CA)
D-HI: Shanlyn Park-state judge

The Federal Judiciary:

Recusal:  Carrie Severino points out that Justice Ginsberg regularly violated the ethical standards that the left uses to attack Justice Thomas.

2nd Circuit:  Judge Rosemary Pooler died in August at age 85.  President Clinton appointed her to ND-NY in 1994 and to the 2nd Circuit in 1998.  She took senior status in 2022.

6th Circuit:  Judge Julia Smith Gibbons will take senior status upon confirmation of a successor.  She was appointed to a state judgeship by Lamar Alexander (R).  She was appointed by Reagan to WD-TN in 1983 and by W to the 6th Circuit in 2002.  She choose to repay all the Republicans who gave her those positions by giving her seat to a Biden appointee.

Federal Circuit:  Judge Pauline Newman (age 96) was suspended for one year from her duties by the Federal Circuit.  Critics claim she is unable to fulfill her duties, and she has refused to submit to medical testing.  They rejected the tests that she did submit.  She claims that she is being mistreated due to her frequent dissents.

Vacancy Declarations:  There are now 95 current and future judicial vacancies.  New vacancies over the past month are listed below.
WD-VA: Michael Urbanski (Obama) 7/4/24 (senior)
D-AZ: James Soto (Obama) 7/1/24 (senior)
D-AZ: Douglas Rayes (Obama) 6/1/24 (senior)
SD-IN: Jane Magnus-Stinson (Obama) 7/1/24 (senior)
CD-CA: George Wu (W) 11/3/23 (senior)
D-VT: Geoffrey Crawford (Obama) 8/9/24 (senior)
Claims: Patricia Campbell Smith (Obama) 9/30/23 (retired)

State Supreme Courts:

Connecticut:  Governor Ned Lamont appointed Nora Dannehy to the Connecticut Supreme Court.  She was a US Attorney for D-CT and general counsel to Lamont.  His previous nominee, Sandra Slack Glover, withdrew her nomination after progressives attacked her for signing a letter supporting the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.

Hawaii:  Hawaii's Judicial Selection Commission produced a list of six nominees for two vacant seats on the Hawaii Supreme Court.  Governor Josh Green (D) will fill the seats vacated by Justices Michael Wilson and Paula Nakayama.

Idaho:  Nine candidates have applied for the seat on the Idaho Supreme Court being vacated by John Stegner.  One of them is former Idaho AG Lawrence Wasden, who lost the R primary in 2022.  The Idaho Judicial Council will interview candidates on October 18.

Minnesota:  Governor Tim Walz (D) appointed Justice Natalie Hudson as chief justice.  Hudson was appointed to the court by Mark Dayton in 2015.  She replaces Lorie Gildea, who retires on October 1.  Walz also appointed Karl Procaccini to Hudson's seat.  He clerked for Michael Davis (D-MN) and Diana Murphy (8th Circuit) and was Walz' general counsel for four years.

Missouri:  Governor Mike Parson (R) appointed Missouri Court of Appeals judge Kelly Broniec to the Missouri Supreme Court.  She is 52 and was appointed by Parson in 2020.  The other finalists recommended by the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission were Missouri Court of Appeals judges Michael Gardner and Ginger Gooch.  The seat was vacated by George Draper III on August 5 due to age limits.

Montana:  The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, a body subordinate to the Montana Supreme Court (MSC), has filed a complaint against AG Austin Knudsen (R) for criticizing the MSC.  Specifically, he supposedly "undermined public confidence in the fairness and impartiality of our system of justice by attempting to evade the authority of the Montana Supreme Court and assaulting the integrity of the judiciary" when he criticized them for secretly lobbying against a bill to reform the judiciary.  MSC Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice Dirk Sandefur will not seek reelection in 2024.

North Carolina:  North Carolina Supreme Court justice Michael Morgan (D) stepped down in early September.  He announced a campaign for governor in 2024.  Governor Roy Cooper appointed Court of Appeals judge Allison Riggs to replace Morgan.  She worked for the far-left Southern Coalition for Social Justice before being appointed by Cooper in January.  The seat is up for election in 2024.

Oregon:  Governor Tina Kotek appointed Aruna Masih to the Oregon Supreme Court.  She is a labor and civil rights attorney with no judicial experience.  Masih was born in India.  She replaces Adrienne Nelson, who was appointed to D-OR in February.

Wisconsin:  The installation of a new 4-3 leftist majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has set off a fight both within and outside the court.  The four leftist judges fired the court administrator (possibly illegally) and hired a leftist judge as a replacement (possibly illegally).

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) has floated the idea of impeaching newly-elected justice Janet Protasiewicz.  She is refusing to recuse from a case intended to overturn the state's legislative maps despite having declared them 'rigged' on the campaign trail.  If impeached, she would be suspended from hearing cases until the trial concludes.


On Ed Whelan's Substack, "Confirmation Tales", recent posts deal with Bill Clinton's nomination of federal judges.


Saturday, September 16, 2023

What Does '2000 Mules' Actually Prove?

One of the later-appearing arguments that the 2020 election was stolen appears in the documentary 2000 Mules, hosted by Dinesh D'Souza.  The documentary reports on the claims of the group True the Vote about ballot harvesting in swing states.

True the Vote acquired anonymous cell phone location data from millions of users.  They correlated this with locations of ballot drop boxes, and claimed to find evidence of thousands of 'mules', that is, people who visited multiple drop boxes to deposit ballots.

Ballot harvesting is the practice of collecting ballots from multiple voters to (presumably) deposit them in the mail or a ballot drop box.  This practice is generally legal for immediate family members, but most states make it illegal for strangers or large quantities of ballots.  The reason for this is that ballot harvesting created a risk of voter fraud, as ballots from unsympathetic voters could be discarded.  This occurred in the 2018 congressional election in North Carolina's 9th district, where Mark Harris (R) employed a campaign consultant who was found to have harvested ballots and manipulated them.

Media articles often describe 2000 Mules as 'widely debunked', citing two 'fact check' articles by Reuters and AP written shortly after its release.  There is also a fact check by Mlive focused on Michigan.  The claim that it is 'widely debunked' is an overstatement.  While the articles raise legitimate questions about the film, they cannot debunk it, since they don't have the information to do so.

Additional questions have been raised by conservative commentators Ben Shapiro and Erick Erickson, who found the documentary unpersuasive.  The right-leaning site The Dispatch also did its own fact check.

One criticism deals with the use of cell phone location data.  Several experts say that this data is not as precise as True the Vote claims.  If so, their list of 'mules' likely includes many innocent people who just happened to walk near several drop boxes while out and about.

Another problem is exactly what 2000 Mules claims and does not claim.  They claim there are 2000 mules, but never identify any of them.  They claim to know which organizations they work for, but never identify them either.  The fact that they don't suggests a lack of confidence in their claims.  Of course, if they are wrong, they would likely be sued by the individuals and groups they identify.

The movie shows some people taking selfies while depositing ballots in drop boxes.  They claim this is how the mules provide proof of their work.  However, they never show video of the same person depositing ballots in more than one location, which is what they claim the cell phone data shows.

Subsequent questioning has revealed more reasons to doubt the thesis of 2000 Mules.  It is important to remember that while ballot harvesting is illegal in most states, that does not mean that the ballots are themselves illegal.  Under questioning by the Wisconsin legislature, Catherine Engelbrecht admitted that they were not claiming that any of the ballots they claim were harvested were illegal.  If a legitimate voter gives a ballot to a harvester, the harvesting may be illegal, but the ballot is not.

Creating hundreds of thousands of illegal votes would be very difficult.  To be counted, a vote must correspond to a registered voter, so a fraudster cannot just make up names for their fraudulent ballots.  If they try to use the names of real registered voters, there is a high risk that multiple ballots will be received using the same name, which would trigger an immediate investigation.  This did not happen in the 2020 election.

Despite (or because of) the questions about their validity, the claims of 2000 Mules and True the Vote have made should be investigated and proved true or false once and for all.  In fact, the Georgia Secretary of State is trying to do that.  He has requested the evidence True the Vote says it has.  They are refusing to turn it over, so he has filed suit to force them to do so.

This development makes it appear very doubtful that the claims of 2000 Mules are true.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Rallies Don't Decide Elections

One of the most common arguments that the 2020 election was stolen concerns Trump's rallies.  In particular, it is commonly asked how Trump could have lost when he had huge rallies and Biden didn't.

To answer this question, we should first note that it is true that Trump had many rallies of up to 20000 people, while Biden had almost no rallies at all.  However, it is important to remember that elections are decided by voting, not rally attendance.  The overall electorate of 150,000,000 people is far larger than the number of people who go to political rallies.

The size of rally crowds is an imperfect proxy for voter enthusiasm.  But enthusiastic votes and reluctant votes both count the same.  A candidate can have very enthusiastic supporters without having a large enough base overall.  For example, in 2008 and 2012 Ron Paul had large rallies, but he ended up with 11% of the popular vote in the 2012 primary.

Also, comparing rally sizes is unfair given that Biden never tried to hold any large rallies.  Aside from the fact that Biden wasn't inspiring, a major reason for this was the fear of COVID, which by mid-2020 was more pronounced on the left than on the right.

The focus on rallies seems to reflect flaws in the strategy of the Trump campaign.  While rallies have some value, they tend to primarily fire up people who were already going to vote for Trump.  Meanwhile, the Biden campaign was focused on getting people to vote using early voting and mail-in ballots.  Trump's campaign actually discouraged people from using these measures due to overblown (though not entirely baseless) election security concerns.

But why did so many voters turn out for Biden?  Because they weren't for Biden, they were against Trump.  To return to rallies, while there were essentially no pro-Biden rallies, there were many anti-Trump rallies.  Early in 2017, the Women's March drew 3-5 million people nationwide.  Then the March for Science drew hundreds of thousands nationwide.  Both these rallies were explicitly against Trump and his administration.  In May 2020 and following, the Black Lives Matter movement had thousands of protests attended by millions of people nationwide.  While BLM was not explicitly about Trump, it certainly was not friendly to him.

Thus we find that anti-Trump protests dwarfed pro-Trump rallies.  Even by the metric of rally sizes, the result of the 2020 election should be no surprise.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Michigan GOP Disaster Continues

After the last election, I explained the sorry state of the Michigan GOP.

The Michigan GOP is a Disaster

In conclusion, I wrote

The Michigan GOP has a choice.  It could continue to embrace conspiracy nonsense and use MAGA messaging that only speaks to the activist base.  Or it can face reality and appeal to winnable voters with a conservative platform that speaks to their concerns.  A test of which direction the party will choose will come at the next Michigan GOP convention in February, which will elect the new party leadership.
There were 11 candidates for chair, though only three attracted significant support.  Scott Greenlee is a political consultant with a long history of working on campaigns in Michigan.  Matt DePerno is a trail lawyer who had almost no history in the party prior to the Stop the Steal movement.  He was the GOP nominee for attorney general, and lost by 9%.  Kristina Karamo was a low-level GOP activist with no relevant experience who was the GOP nominee for Secretary of State.  She lost by 14% and refused to concede the election.

Former president Trump endorsed DePerno for Michigan GOP chair.  At the convention, Greenlee was eliminated on the second ballot with 23%.  Karamo won 58% to DePerno's 42% on the final ballot.  The state party and many local parties have been taken over by what I will call the MAGA faction.  They are characterized by belief in Stop the Steal and other conspiracies, Trump-style rhetoric, and hatred of the old party establishment and donor base.  Notably, the majority of them are not blindly loyal to Trump, as they rejected his endorsee for Karamo, who is even more fanatical than DePerno.

Karamo had run on a platform of scorning the traditional Michigan GOP donor base, including the DeVos family.  Thus fundraising was going to be a major concern.  During her chair campaign, Karamo offered a plan to change the party's fundraising base.

As a candidate for party chair, Karamo vowed to “expand the donor pool by creating a decentralized fundraising system that obtains funding from approximately 500,000 likely-Republican business owners, rather than a handful of millionaire/billionaire class political operatives,” according to a Dec. 18 “vision” document she released.
However, this plan appears to be deeply flawed at the outset.  A quick search reveals the following.
Of those 765,487 small businesses in Michigan, 209,751 have employees. The remaining 555,736 are Michigan small businesses that have no employees.
Businesses without employees are either self-employed people or businesses that only exist on paper.  Thus the number of businesses that Karamo is counting on simply don't exist.  Further, some businesses are owned by democrats or independents who would not donate to Republicans.  Many others are owned by the sort of county club types that Karamo and her supporters hate.  Thus her plan simply could not work, even aside from the difficulty of getting like-minded people to donate.

Not surprisingly, the Michigan GOP has been essentially broke since Karamo took charge.  After the chair of the budget committee expressed concern about the party's financial state, Karamo removed him and faced criticism from her own co-chair.  Later, it came out that the party has only $93,000 in the bank.  Karamo's fundraising efforts have been a tremendous failure.  It is likely that a significant proportion of what has been raised is going to Karamo's salary.

Not only has Karamo not raised money to help elect Republicans, she has also attacked those who have.  The last bastion of sanity in the Michigan GOP are the Republican caucuses in the state house and senate.  In June, the state house GOP announced that former Governor Rick Snyder would be aiding their fundraising efforts.  The was a major boost for the house GOP, as Snyder is a wealthy businessman and has ties to many others like him who can donate big bucks.

Karamo responded to this announcement by attacking Snyder.  To be sure, there are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Snyder's performance as governor, many of which appeared on this blog.  But Snyder is not seeking office himself.  He is raising money for other Republicans, virtually all of whom are more conservative than him.  Any rational conservative should consider that a good thing.

Karamo's attack on Snyder is indicative of the other major feature of her administration: infighting.  Any successful political party is a coalition of people who disagree on some issues.  When there are disputes, they should be dealt with internally, not in the media.

But over the past year, there has been an increase in public infighting, not limited to the budgetary dispute and attacks on Rick Snyder.  In June, Matt DePerno subpoenaed Karamo as part of lawsuit disputing control of the Kalamazoo GOP.  Also in June, there was a fight between GOP officials from Kalamazoo and Macomb Counties.  In July, one activist assaulted a GOP official at the MIGOP state committee meeting.  Charges have been issued related to the two incidents.  Obviously, none of this makes the Michigan GOP look good.

There is also a rise in "censure" and "no confidence" resolutions.  These resolutions have no practical effect, except to "diss" the target of the resolution.  It appears that many of the activists currently involved in the Michigan GOP are engaged in a right-wing form of virtue-signaling.  They seem to be motivated more by affirming a sense of their own moral superiority by attacking less pure Republicans than actually doing the hard work needed to win elections.

Political parties do need some common values, and it is reasonable to exclude those who are opposed to those basic values.  But purity tests and endless infighting between people who agree on most issues is obviously counterproductive.  Winning doesn't seem to be a priority for the MAGA faction.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

August 2023 Judiciary News

Nominations, Hearings, Confirmations:

Overall:  Harsh Voruganti of The Vetting Room assesses the the state of judicial vacancies and nominations at the middle of 2023.

7th Circuit:  Joshua Kolar-clerk for Wayne Andersen (ND-IL), Magistrate Judge (ND-IN)
10th Circuit:  Rich Federico-Senior Litigator, Public Defender (D-KS)
D-MN:  Jeffrey Bryan-clerk for Paul Magnuson (D-MN), Minnesota Court of Appeals judge
ND-CA:  Eumi Lee-clerk for Warren Ferguson (9th Circuit), Jerome Turner (WD-TN), Superior Court of California judge

The Federal Judiciary:

Supreme Court:  Carrie Severino summarizes the originalist victories over the past Supreme Court term.

Affirmative Action:  The court's ruling against affirmative action is broadly popular, with one poll showing 59% approve and 27% disapprove.  Also, "significant pluralities of black and Hispanic Americans support the decision".

Affirmative Action:  Ed Whelan argues that the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action will not be difficult to enforce.

Affirmative Action:  Christopher Mills shows that Justice Jackson's opinion is infused with the discredited ideology of critical race theory.

Thomas:  Critics often stigmatize Justice Thomas by accusing him of benefitting from affirmative action, thereby proving his point about the harm it causes to qualified minority students.

Jackson:  Josh Blackman argues that Justice Jackson did not really recuse herself from the Harvard affirmative action case, though he says that is not a problem.

303 Creative:  Various leftists have claimed that the Supreme Court should not have taken the 303 Creative case on freedom of expression.  The argument in part depends on a sham request to the website that was never critical to the case.  However, the case was heard by the district and appeals courts, and the other side never argued against standing.

Thomas:  The Guardian tried to insinuate a scandal in the fact that Justice Thomas received payments from his former clerks.  However, the payments were obviously reimbursements for a Christmas party.

Alito:  Justice Alito criticized members of Congress (including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)) who believe they can regulate the Supreme Court.  He observes that it was created by the Constitution, not by congress.

Vacancy Declarations:  There are now 91 current and future judicial vacancies.  New vacancies over the past month are listed below.
WD-VA: Michael Urbanski (Obama) 7/4/24 (senior)

State Supreme Courts:

Overall:  The "Center for Public Integrity" is very upset that Republicans have filled more state supreme court seats.  Several red states have disempowered nominating commissions run by leftist bar associations.

Arkansas:  Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) appointed Cody Hiland to the Arkansas Supreme Court.  He replaces Robin Wynne, who died on June 21.  Hiland was US Attorney for ED-AR 2017-2020 and was elected Arkansas GOP chairman in 2022.  According to Sanders, the court now has a conservative majority.

Missouri:  Justices George Draper III and Justice Patricia Breckenridge will be age-limited on August 5 and October 14, respectively.  Draper was appointed by Jay Nixon (D) in 2011 and Breckenridge was appointed by Matt Blunt (R) in 2007.  There are 23 lawyers applying to fill Draper's seat.  Governor Mike Parson (R) will appoint one of the finalists selected by the nominating commission.


On Ed Whelan's Substack, "Confirmation Tales", recent posts deal with Bill Clinton's nomination of federal judges.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

2023 Kalamazoo Election Preview

This article was last updated September 8, 2023.

This is a preview of the November 7 elections in Kalamazoo County.

Kalamazoo City Commission

The mayor and three seats on the Kalamazoo City Commission are up for election. The seven commissioners are Mayor David Anderson (on since 2005, mayor since 2019), Don Cooney (1997-2019, 2021-P), Jeanne Hess (2019), Chris Praedel (2019), Qianna Decker (2021), Stephanie Hoffman (2021), Esteven Juarez (2021)

The mayor is elected separately every two years.  There are staggered four-year terms for the other seats, with three up for election every two years.  Cooney, Decker, and Hoffman were elected to 4-year terms in 2021, and Juarez won a 2-year term created by a resignation.

Mayor Anderson, a center-left democrat, will run for reelection.  He is being challenged by John Allen, an attorney.

Hess, Praedel, and Juarez are seeking reelection.  Other candidates include Jeff Messer, James P. Ayers, Alonzo Wilson II, and James Mitchell.  Mitchell ran unsuccessfully in 2021.

Portage City Council

The mayor and three seats on the Portage City Council are up for election.  Patricia Randall was elected mayor in 2017 after serving on the council since 2009.  Councilwoman Lisa Brayton, who was elected unopposed to the council in 2021, tried to challenge Randall for mayor.  However, she dropped out and resigned after it was revealed that she did not live where she claimed to in her filing.

The other councilmembers are Terry Urban (1997), Jim Pearson (2011), Lori Knapp (2017), Chris Burns (2017), and Vic Ledbetter (2020).  The three seats up for 4-year terms are held by Pearson, Knapp, and Burns.  All three an running for reelection.

Also running are Charley Coss, Tony Lorentz, Mark McKeon, Nicole Miller, Kathleen Olmsted, Steve Pieczko, and Jihan Ain Young.  Lorentz is a former Kalamazoo GOP chair, and Coss is the current Kalamazoo GOP vice-chair, and has run for county commission several times.  Kathleen Olmsted is the current Kalamazoo GOP secretary.

Friday, June 30, 2023

July 2023 Judiciary News

Nominations, Hearings, Confirmations:

ED-LA:  President Biden announced two nominations for judgeships in Louisiana with support from the state's R senators.  However, nine members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter criticizing their lack of consultation on the nominations and asked that the nominations be withdrawn.

ED-WI:  A bipartisan nominating commission has recommended Byron Conway and Marc Hammer to fill a seat on ED-WI that has been open since 2019.  President Biden previously nominated William Pocan for the seat, but Senator Ron Johnson (R) withheld a blue slip.

D-SD:  This article takes a long time to say that there has been no progress to fill one current and one future vacancy in D-SD, and nobody knows why.

D-OR:  Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced six finalists for an open seat on D-OR.

SD-NY: Margaret Garnett-clerk for Gerard E. Lynch (SD-NY), AUSA (SD-NY)
D-DE: Jennifer Hall-clerk for Kent A. Jordan (3rd Circuit), Sharon Prost (Federal Circuit), Magistrate Judge (D-DE)
MD-PA: Karoline Mehalchick-Magistrate Judge (MD-PA)
ED-MI: Brandy McMillion-AUSA (ED-MI)

The Federal Judiciary:

Affirmative Action:  The court issued a 6-3 decision written by Justice Roberts striking down affirmative action in university admissions.  See also Carrie Severino.

Speech:  The court ruled 6-3 that a website designer cannot be compelled to express messages that she disagrees with.

Student Loans:  The court ruled 6-3 that the Biden administration acted illegally when it claimed to cancel some student loans.

Gerrymandering:  The court ruled that Alabama must create a second black-majority congressional district.  Carrie Severino critiques the decision.

Supreme Court:  538 found that the Supreme Court has recently become more popular (or less unpopular), indicating that the effects of the left's smear campaign are abating.

Reporters:  At a recent panel, "D.C. Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern of Slate, Elie Mystal of the Nation, and Jay Willis of the leftist Balls and Strikes" resolved to be even more biased and hysterical in their coverage of the Supreme Court.

Alito:  Following their smear of Justice Thomas, ProPublica attacked Justice Alito for vacationing with a billionaire.  However, Alito responded to the smear in a Wall Street Journal article published first.

Federal Circuit:  The dispute surrounding Judge Pauline Newman continues.  Her critics claim Newman had a heart attack, which she denies.  An interviewer describes her as "fully in command" of "complicated legal matters".

Vacancy Declarations:  There are now 94 current and future judicial vacancies.  New vacancies over the past month are listed below.
ED-MO: John Ross (Obama) 6/9/23 (senior)
D-OR: Ann Aiken (Clinton) 12/29/23 (senior)
SD-NY: Paul Gardephe (W) 8/1/23 (senior)
D-RI: William Smith (W) 1/1/25 (senior)

State Supreme Courts:

Arkansas:  Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Robin Wynne died on June 21 at age 70.  He was elected in 2014 and reelected in 2022.  Although the court is officially nonpartisan, Wynne was a D state rep 1984-88.  Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) will appoint a replacement.

Arkansas:  Chief Justice John Dan Kemp, age 71, will retire from the court at the end of his term.  Justices Rhonda Wood and Karen Baker will seek the seat, and Justice Barbara Webb is 'strongly considering' running.  The election is on March 5, 2024.

Massachusetts:  Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Elspeth Cypher will retire on January 12, 2024. She was appointed by governor Charlie Baker in 2017.  Governor Maura Healey (D) will get her first appointment to the court.

Minnesota:  Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea will retire in October.  She was appointed to the court by Tim Pawlenty (R) in 2006 and named chief in 2010.  Governor Tim Walz (D) will make his second appointment to the court.

West Virginia:  West Virginia Supreme Court Justice John Hutchison will retire at the end of his term in 2024.  He is an independent who was appointed in 2018 by Governor Jim Justice.

Numbers and Trivia:

Chief Judges: On July 8, the new chief judge of the 4th Circuit will be Albert Diaz, who was appointed by Obama in 2010.  He replaces Roger Gregory, who was recess-appointed by Clinton in 2000 and given a regular appointment by W in 2001.  The Presidents who appointed chief judges of the 13 appeals courts are W (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, Fed), and Obama (1, 4, 9, DC). 


Ed Whelan's Substack, "Confirmation Tales", has recent posts that deal with Bill Clinton's nomination of Stephen Breyer to replace Harry Blackmun.
Senate Republicans Oppose Clinton's Terrible Eleventh Circuit Pick
Judicial-Confirmation Trivia Answers

Rehnquist:  Ed Whelan debunks Slate's smear of Justice William Rehnquist, falsely claiming he sympathized with segregation.


Thursday, June 22, 2023

Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: Downtown Streets

The city of Kalamazoo is planning to spend 30 million dollars to convert several downtown streets from one-way to two-way.  This proposal seems likely to make the city worse for drivers.

There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about traffic downtown.  When Kalamazoo was first being developed over a century ago, most of the places that people would want to go were located downtown (which initially was the whole town).  Naturally, many roads were built to head to downtown Kalamazoo, including Westnedge, Burdick, Portage, King Highway, East Michigan, East Main, Gull, Riverview, Pitcher, Douglas, West Main, Stadium, and Oakland Drive.  Over time, the city expanded and important destinations spread throughout the city and its suburbs.  But the roads stay where they are, so drivers often need to travel through downtown Kalamazoo even when they aren't heading to or from there.

To facilitate the flow of traffic, in 1965, the city converted many of the busiest streets in downtown from two-way to one-way.  There are obvious advantages to one-way streets.  Without opposing traffic, cars can safely move faster.  There may be room for an extra driving lane, as for example, a road that could hold three lanes traveling in the same direction can only hold one lane each way.  With one-way roads, traffic lights only need two cycles rather than four.  All of this means that drivers can move through the city more quickly and are less likely to get stuck in traffic jams.

Eliminating one-way streets will reverse these benefits.

For years now, the city of Kalamazoo has been planning to convert downtown streets to two-way.  Back in 2019, the city of Kalamazoo acquired control of several major state-owned roads in Kalamazoo.  It will have to pay for future maintenance of these roads, which was previously funded by the state.  In a rare moment of reasonableness, commissioner Don Cooney voted against the transfer.

As result of this, the state highway M-43 was rerouted.  It used to go straight through Kalamazoo along West Main, along the one-way streets of Michigan Avenue and Kalamazoo Avenue downtown, and then along Gull Road northeast to Richland.  Since the downtown streets were sold, they could no longer be a state highway.  For the other pieces of M-43 to connect, it had to be rerouted along state-owned roads.  Thus it now makes a ridiculous detour along US-131 up to Plainwell, then along M-89 to Richland, avoiding Kalamazoo completely.  Gull Road from downtown to Richland was redesignated as M-343.

The city has been promoting plans for the conversion of streets to two-way.  While you might think they could just repaint some lines and reprogram the traffic lights, the project will actually cost tens of millions of dollars and take 8-10 years to complete.

One supposed reason for the change is to benefit pedestrians.  While advocates of the changes claim that downtown is hard to walk, I doubt this.  Recently, I crossed the widest part of Michigan Avenue in about 10 seconds without running.  If the width of a road doesn't change, the time to cross it won't either.  Some proposals do include "bump-outs" near crosswalks, but this comes at the cost of eliminating traffic lanes.  While pedestrians should always watch out for cars, two-way roads mean that pedestrians can be hit from either direction.  In addition, two-way traffic means more possible turns at intersections.  This increases the danger to pedestrians, since turns are often allowed at the same time that pedestrians are told to walk.

Allowing two-way traffic would seem to increase the danger of head-on collisions.  However, advocates claim that the changes will make drivers safer.  If this is true, it is only because of reduced traffic speeds.  Of course, if you make speed limits low enough (and get drivers to follow them) you will eventually reduce fatal crashes.  But this comes at the cost of wasting drivers' time.  You could eliminate traffic deaths completely if vehicles could only go 10 mph, but we don't do this because people's time also has value.

Perhaps the stupidest argument for the change is that one-way streets are racist.

When the roads were originally designed, it followed "historic redlining practices," DOT wrote, creating a barrier between Kalamazoo's Northside neighborhood, the city's predominantly Black neighborhood, and the central business district.
It's unclear how Kalamazoo Avenue being one-way makes it more of a 'barrier' than when it was two-way.  In any case, residents of the Northside don't seem to have any difficulty getting to downtown.  One could just as well argue that making the streets two-way is a racist plot to create traffic jams that stop black people from driving to downtown.

The planners seeking to change the roads in downtown Kalamazoo should take heed of a similar experiment in Paw Paw back in 2014.  The village decided to implement a "road diet" to reduce Michigan Avenue in downtown Paw Paw from five lanes to three.  This "traffic calming" measure included reverse angle parking.  Not surprisingly, eliminating half of the road's driving lanes created traffic jams, which alienated local businesses.  The change was soon reversed.

Rather than try to obstruct drivers who need to drive through downtown, Kalamazoo should create alternative routes so that drivers can bypass downtown.  One project that has been discussed for years is extending the the US 131 Business Loop to Riverview Drive.  This would allow easier access to the industrial area north of downtown and make it possible for most trucks to avoid traveling through downtown.

Another idea is to extend Howard Street to Burdick Street (so that it continues onto Reed Avenue).  This would reduce the traffic on Maple Street, which has been the subject of complaints.

The city of Kalamazoo should help drivers get to their destinations more easily, not make it harder for them to do so.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: Bicycle Lanes

The city of Kalamazoo is making life more difficult for motorists.  One big way is adding bicycle lanes to many major roads.

Bicycles can be used for either transportation or recreation.  But do either of these goals justify dedicating part of the road to bicycles?

I won't judge the merits of bicycles for recreation except to note that some people obviously like them.  But recreational bicycling doesn't need to be done on roads. A much better option are bicycle paths, some of which parallel roads, and others don't (often following old railroad beds or power lines).

For transportation, have the advantage of being cheaper than cars and faster than walking.  However, there are some serious disadvantages.

One major disadvantage is safety.  Putting bicycles on roads creates a major risk of being hit by cars.  Back in 2016, a pickup driver hit and killed five bicyclists and injured four others on North Westnedge Avenue in Cooper Township.  The driver was high on drugs at the time.  Obviously, the driver was legally and morally responsible for the deaths.  Nonetheless, it should be noted that the road the bicyclists were traveling on had a bike path parallel to it that the bicyclists were not using.

The Kalamazoo tragedy was particularly dramatic, but the news is full of stories of bicyclists killed by collisions with cars, almost all of which could have been avoided if bicycles were not allowed on roads.  Bicycles are not allowed on freeways, where drivers can legally drive 70 miles per hour, so why should they be on roads where cars can travel 55 miles per hour?

There are also many reasons why riding bicycles for transportation is impractical.  Many people live too far away from work, and in many jobs, arriving sweaty and in bicycle gear would be frowned upon.  Some people aren't physically capable of riding a bike (get on your bike, grandma!).  Biking when it rains is unpleasant, not to mention dangerous when the "bicycle gutters" turn into ponds.  During winter, temperatures are usually cold, and roads are often covered with snow (that gets plowed into the bicycle lanes), making bicycling impractical.

Another problem with bicycles on streets is that they are an obstacle to drivers.  Passing a bicycle often requires swerving into a lane of oncoming traffic.  When this is not possible, an entire line of drivers will be limited to the speed of a bicycle, often around 10 mph.

Another obstacle to drivers is the fact that Kalamazoo has been eliminating vehicle lanes in favor of bicycle lanes.  This has happened on Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo Avenue, Westnedge and Park Avenue, Rose Street, and elsewhere.  Cork Street, a major thoroughfare (particularly when traffic is detoured from I-94), was put on a "road diet".  Specifically, it was reduced from four lanes to three (one each way with a turn lane).

Perhaps the craziest proposal yet would convert Winchell Avenue to a single vehicle lane and two bicycle lanes.  The single vehicle lane would somehow accommodate cars traveling in both directions, with drivers swerving into the bicycle lanes to avoid crashing into each other.  Perhaps the city could save some money by pre-building the memorial to all the drivers and bicyclists who will get killed by this insanity.

What is amazing about Kalamazoo's obsession with adding bike lanes is that almost nobody uses them.  Driving around Kalamazoo, it is easy to observe that the bike lanes are almost always empty, except in the vicinity of Western Michigan University, where some students and employees use bikes to commute to campus.  The number of travelers per unit area is far less in bicycle lanes than in vehicle lanes.

There are some countries where biking to work is common, whether because people are too poor to afford cars, or just because of cultural differences.  However, Kalamazoo citizens have not adopted this culture, despite the city planners' attempts to encourage them to do so.  So what is driving the proliferation of bike lanes, if not public demand?  It appears to be an ideology hostile to cars, driven by environmentalism and fear of global warming.