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

Neil Gorsuch

President Donald Trump (R) will nominate Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, to the United States Supreme Court.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gorsuch would replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died of natural causes in February of 2016. Scalia was a conservative firebrand and textualist. Gorsuch is generally viewed as ideologically similar to Scalia. Thus, Gorsuch’s nomination, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, will leave the court with essentially the same ideological makeup it had before Scalia’s death.

Gorsuch worked as a law clerk for Judge David B. Sentelle on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and later for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He then served from 1995 to 2005 as a lawyer in private practice. In 2005 he became Deputy to the Associate Attorney General under President George W. Bush (R). Bush nominated Gorsuch to the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit a year later, and he was confirmed by the Senate in an unopposed voice vote.

In March of 2016, then-President Barack Obama (D) nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the District of Columbia Circuit of the Court of Appeals, to serve on the Supreme Court. The Republican-majority in the Senate declined to act upon that nomination, resulting in an unusually long (though not unprecedented) vacancy on the bench. The U.S. Constitution charges the Senate with providing “advice and consent” on judicial nominations, and whether inaction constitutes “advice and consent” remains an unanswered legal question.

Some Democrats in the Senate have pledged to mount a filibuster against Trump’s nominee, even before knowing who it would be. This may effectively require that at least sixty senators vote to end debate and move forward with a vote to confirm. However it is possible that Republicans will use the so-called “nuclear option” to prohibit the filibuster’s use to obstruct nominations and thereby force a straight up-or-down vote.

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.