Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed by a 54-45 majority in the United States Senate and will become the next Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Gorsuch was President Donald Trump’s (R) first Supreme Court nominee, and his confirmation ends an unusually lengthy vacancy on the court. Justice Antonin Scalia died of natural causes in February of 2016, and although President Barack Obama (D) nominated Merrick Garland to the seat the following month, the Senate never acted on that nomination. Gorsuch, like Scalia, is generally regarded as a textualist, so his confirmation is unlikely to cause any major shift in the court’s ideological balance.

The U.S. Constitution charges the Senate with providing “advice and consent” on judicial nominations, and it remains an unanswered legal question whether inaction actually fulfills that requirement. Republicans simply never considered the Garland nomination, and Democrats mounted a “filibuster” in an attempt to prevent Gorsuch’s from going to a vote.

Republicans broke the filibuster by invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” a rule change that prohibits senators from obstructing Supreme Court nominations. Democrats made a similar rule change in 2013, but it only applied to cabinet and lower court appointments.

Gorsuch will be sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday.

Maybe I’m weird, but I read the manuals that come with most of the products I own. I don’t always read them before I start playing around with the product, but I almost always do sooner-or-later. Sometimes it’s a waste of time and I learn nothing new. Other times, I discover useful new features and capabilities that I might not have ever found otherwise.

I am especially diligent with the manuals for the automobiles I’ve owned over the years. Cars are complicated machines . . . and they’re among the most expensive products that most people own. When I get one, I want to know all of its ins-and-outs. I want to understand how its features work. And I can learn a lot of those things from the manual. Not everything, of course; most cars have ‘undocumented’ features and hacks that you can find in the service manual or enthusiast forums. Those are even more fun. But the regular owner’s manual can still provide a wealth of useful information.

Of course, in a modern car manual, there are a lot of disclaimers and legalese. It’s not uncommon to find a description of a feature, and then a warning instructing you to never-ever-ever use that feature unless you’ve signed a waiver, parked in a bubble-wrap sphere, and put on a helmet.

It wasn’t always that way. As I have mentioned before, I am the proud owner of a 1977 Jeep J-10 pickup (which is currently being restored). Its owner’s manual—which is actually an owner’s manual for the entire 1977 Jeep product line—does have some legalese warnings here-and-there, but overall it just tells you how the vehicles work and how you should take care of them. To a modern reader (like myself), it’s a bit disconcerting. But perhaps even more disconcerting are the features and oddities that are completely absent from modern cars . . . some of which deserved to land in the dustbin of automotive history, and others that ought to make a comeback.

Read on for some examples. . . . Continued

For April Fools Day 2017, Off on a Tangent went to Russia. Since basically all the news can talk about is uncorroborated and evidence-free claims of collusion between the Russian government and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, and since we seem to think that Russia now has some kind of out-sized influence on American politics, I figured it was time for me to move there. The web site became По касательной, the site was partially translated into the Russian language, and there were Russian flags all over the place.

You can view the site in all its glory by clicking here, or just read on for the content of the announcement itself. . . . Continued

For the eight years that George W. Bush (R) was president, Republicans complained bitterly about their Democratic counterparts in the Senate using the archaic rules like the filibuster to prevent votes on judicial nominations. The Republicans in the majority said that it was inappropriate for the Democratic minority to stop the Senate from doing its job, and threatened to invoke the ‘nuclear option’ that would eliminate the filibuster when it came to judicial nominees. The Democrats strongly defended the filibuster, claiming that it was an important check on the majority.

Then Barack Obama (D) became president. And the Democrats began to complain bitterly about their Republican counterparts in the Senate using the filibuster against judicial nominees. Now the Democrats claimed that it was inappropriate for the Republican minority to stop the Senate from doing its job. Now it was the Democrats threatening to invoke the ‘nuclear option’, and now it was Republicans strongly defending the filibuster as an important check on the majority.

So much for sticking to principle.

More than a year ago, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Republicans in the Senate refused to act on that nomination. Democrats demanded that the nomination be considered promptly. And now, President Donald Trump (R) has nominated Neil Gorsuch to that same Supreme Court seat . . . and the Republicans who just spent a year dragging their feet on a nomination suddenly think it needs to be acted upon immediately, and the Democrats who just spent a year demanding that the Senate act promptly on nominations suddenly want to prevent the Senate from acting on one.

Look, there’s room for debate about the filibuster and about whether inaction constitutes the ‘advice and consent’ that the U.S. Constitution tells the Senate to provide on presidential nominations. My humble opinion is that the Senate must act on a nomination—either confirming or rejecting it—within a reasonable amount of time, which is why I wanted Garland’s nomination to be put to a vote last year (though I wanted the Senate to vote against). My opinion on this doesn’t change based on who is in power. Either it’s okay to delay a court nomination indefinitely, or it isn’t.

Shame on the Democratic hypocrites who objected to those delays last year and perpetrate them today. And shame on the Republican hypocrites who perpetrated those delays last year and oppose them today. Why don’t you all grow up and get some principles?

Honcho 2 (mock-up by Melissa Lew)

In November of 2015, I wrote about my then-ongoing search for my first car—a 1978 Jeep J-10 ‘Honcho’ pickup—and my intent to, if possible, buy it back and restore it. Unfortunately I never found it. But I did make contact with Hardcore Hot Rods, a local auto restoration shop, and discussed my proposed project with them.

After many months and no success tracking down my specific truck, I declared the search over . . . but I didn’t give up on the idea of a J-10 restoration. The folks at Hardcore suggested that I let them find a good truck with good bones, bring it in, and restore it. So I gave them a list of my ‘must have’ requirements and the search began.

They found several trucks, but quickly narrowed it down to the one: a 1977 J-10 from California, intact with all its parts, a solid and rust-free frame, an AMC 401 V8 (more powerful than the 360 V8 mine had), and 165,280 miles. It needed some love—body and paint work, an engine rebuild, and other maintenance and clean-up—but it would be the new Honcho. I paid the deposit, they had it moved cross-country, and here it is: . . . Continued

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.