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Letter to Senators: Reconsider Supreme Court Stance

I sent the following letter to both of Alaska’s Senators – Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. If you want to see the Senate act on a Supreme Court appointment, I strongly urge you to contact your Senators as well. If enough of us act, perhaps something will come of it. Nothing will happen if we do nothing.


I am writing you today to urge you to reconsider your opposition, sight unseen, to any appointment made to the Supreme Court by President Obama. You have said that it would be “unprecedented” for a President to send a nominee to the Senate in an election year.

To put it bluntly yet give you the benefit of the doubt, you have have been lied to. As reported at the SCOTUS blog entry “Supreme Court vacancies in presidential election years” published on February 13, 2016, there have been several Supreme Court appointments and/or Senate confirmations in election years:

1912 – President Taft nominated Mahlon Pitney, confirmed by Senate 50-26
1916 – President Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis, confirmed by Senate 47-22
1916 – President Wilson nominated John Clarke, confirmed unaminously by Senate
1932 – President Hoover nominated Benjamin Cardozo, confirmed unaminously by Senate
1940 – President Franklin D Roosevelt nominated Frank Murphy, confirmed by Senate
1987 – President Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy after failed nominations of Bork and Douglas Ginsburg, confirmed by Senate in election year 1988 97-0.

I know that this information has been available to you for a few weeks and I am sorrowful it has not changed your mind.

While not completely without precedent, the 330 day plus wait you propose for next Supreme Court nominee is extremely rare. Given the Court’s makeup, it also seems likely we will have a set of 4-4 decisions which turn our country into a patchwork of conflicting laws. This cannot be good for the business community or the country as a whole.

I also find it surprising that your opposition is reported as unconditional – that even if President Obama appointed a Republican or someone who had previously been confirmed to a federal judgeship 98-0, you would not allow as much as a hearing. What could possibly make these justices unpalatable now? Reasons might come out in hearings, but you reportedly don’t want to hold them. So it looks like you are willing to pass up qualified judges acceptable to a Republican Senate.

But what happens if we elect a Democratic President? What happens then? Do you accept a nomination from President Sanders or President H. Clinton, even if their pick is less advantageous to you than someone President Obama proposes? Or will you continue to keep the court in deadlock 4-4 in hopes that a liberal justice will die and tilt the Court back in your favor? We deserve to know what your plans are before the next time you are up for a vote.

I should also point out that even if we elect a Republican President, there is no guarantee that his nominee will be the conservative voice you appear to desire. I remind you that Justice Kennedy, the swing vote on the court, was appointed by President Reagan. Most famously, President Nixon nominated Warren Burger to be Supreme Court Chief Justice with the expectation that he would lead the way in dismantling liberal decisions of the Warren court. This did not happen, Chief Justice Burger was even more liberal in some ways. In fact, Chief Justice Burger was in the majority in Roe v. Wade. A Republican President is no guarantee of a conservative justice.

So instead of waiting 300 plus days of uncertainty in the law of the land in hopes that the President you want will appoint the Justice you want who will act in the way you hope, I ask you act on the nomination that President Obama sends you. Urge the Judiciary Committee to hold thorough hearings and have an up or down vote.

I am NOT urging you to vote Yes or No on a nominee. That is up to you after you give full consideration to the President’s appointment. I do ask, urge and expect that you will give full consideration to a nominee and not keep the country in limbo. I further insist that if you are given a nominee you have previously voted to confirm, that you vote to confirm them again unless new information has come to light.

Respectfully, Daniel Cornwall



Supreme Court vacancies in presidential election years  (SCOTUS Blog, 2/13/2016) – http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/02/supreme-court-vacancies-in-presidential-election-years/

Sen. Richard Blumenthal correct that the longest Supreme Court vacancy in 30 years has been 237 days (Politifact, 2/18/2016) – http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/feb/18/richard-blumenthal/sen-richard-blumenthal-correct-longest-supreme-cou/

History of the Burger Court (Washington University Law School) – http://supremecourtopinions.wustl.edu/?rt=index/history

Roe v. Wade: The Aftermath of one of the Most Controversial Supreme Court Decisions (Loyola Student Historical Journal) – http://www.loyno.edu/~history/journal/Oehlke.htm



What Will Sen. Murkowski Cut to Pay for Plane Tax Cut?

A recent Congress.gov alert brought this news about Senator Murkowski:

Legislation sponsored:


  • S. 2530 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the exemption for certain aircraft from the excise taxes on transportation by air.

The text has this line in it:

(1) in subsection (a), by striking “6,000 pounds or less” and inserting “12,500 pounds or less”, and

So it looks like heavier and more expensive aircraft will be exempt from excise taxes. This will reduce revenue to the federal government during a time of deficits. Without other actions it will raise the annual deficit.

So, if Senator Murkowski wants to keep the deficit from increasing under S. 2530, she needs to either offer an offsetting tax on something else, or cut something. Will she do either?


Tiny Roses

A story of tiny roses from a much drier climate than we’re used to here in Southeast Alaska.

Your Present Blessings

I was never much of a fan for succulents. They seemed like plants that cheated. I know it seems crazy, but I loved bulbs and ferns and water loving plants better. It was a product of where I had lived on the Oregon Coast. Succulents grew rapidly with little water and took over when you weren’t looking. They offended me!  After moving to the eastern part of the state and killing way too many plants because I couldn’t water them enough, I unwillingly moved to the succulent species.

After the first year, I was sold on them. They did many lovely things and they were full of tiny surprises. I also enjoyed how easy they were share. Many of mine came from other people’s yards. Free is a very good price when it comes to flowers and I think of my friends when I look at the different plants. I went…

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How Will Rep Young Pay for More Military?

One of my recent alerts from Congress.gov shows that Rep. Don Young has cosponsored these two bills:


  • H.R. 4534 – To recognize the importance of the land forces of the United States Armed Forces and to revise the fiscal year 2016 end-strength levels for these Land Forces and specify new permanent active duty end strength minimum levels, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 4537 – To prohibit the use of military installations to house aliens who do not have a lawful immigration status or are undergoing removal proceedings in the United States.

There’s no text yet available for HR 4534, but the title implies that he proposes to increase the size of the US Army. Rep. Young is on the record as strongly opposing tax hikes or other revenue raisers. Yet increasing the size of the Army will have a cost, both in current payrolls and later in providing the benefits to veterans that they deserve.

Rep. Young should explain how he intends to pay for more soldiers. If he won’t tax, he either needs to cut something or borrow money to pay our soldiers. We deserve to know what he will do.

If you see the text of the bill before I do and see that it’s a proposal to REDUCE the size of our land forces, let me know and I’ll post a retraction.

HR 4537 just seems to be a needless restriction on the executive branch. We detain many, many aliens prior to removal – often for years. If we’re going to continue this practice (which I disagree with) the government needs more places to house them, not fewer.



Marco Rubio: Gives in to fear, paranoia

“In fact, if ISIS were to visit us or our communities at any moment, the last line of defense between ISIS and my family is the ability I have to protect my family from them or from a criminal or anyone else that seeks to do us harm. Millions of Americans feel that way.”

via Marco Rubio Says He Bought A Gun On Christmas As ‘Last Line Of Defense’ Against ISIS | Crooks and Liars.

While I don’t agree with guns for home defense, I understand and respect the right of people to have guns for home defense.

But when you’re buying a gun specifically to fend off ISIS/Daesh, you’ve descended into paranoia. Also seem to lack understanding of ISIS tactics, which outside of their territory relies heavily on bombs or groups of people ambushing soft targets like hotels or malls with massed rifle fire. A gun in the home won’t stop either of those.

Also, as a would be President, Senator Rubio appears to have abandoned faith in our military, police services and intelligence services.

Alaska Related Govdocs: Radioactive Southeast, Aleutian voices, Aleutian Subsistance

My work sometimes brings me into contact with federal publications about Alaska. Some are old and some are new. Here’s a selection of some recent items I’ve run across:

Title Investigations for radioactive deposits in southeastern Alaska /
Internet Access http://purl.fdlp.gov/GPO/gpo63104
Author West, Walter S.(Walter Scott),1912-author.
Published [Washington, D.C.] : United States Department of the Interior, Geological Survey, 1955.
Series ( Geological Survey bulletin ; 1024-B.)
General Note “This report concerns work done on behalf of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and is published with the permission of the Commission. ”
Bibliography Includes bibliographical references (page 54) and index.
URL http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/b1024B

Title Aleutian voices /
Internet Access http://purl.fdlp.gov/GPO/gpo62606
Published [Washington, D.C.?] : U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 2014-
Publication Dates Began with: Volume 1, no. 1 (2014).
URL http://www.nps.gov/aleu/learn/historyculture/aleuvoices.htm

Title Subsistence study for the North Aleutian Basin /
Internet Access http://purl.fdlp.gov/GPO/gpo63065
Author Reedy-Maschner, Katherine L.,1975-author.
Published Anchorage, AK : U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Alaska Region, 2012.
Description 1 online resource (xv, 226 pages) : illustrations (chiefly color), color maps.
Series ( OCS study ; BOEM 2012-109.)
URL http://www.boem.gov/BOEM-Newsroom/Library/Publications/2012/BOEM-2012-109.aspx

Science for Alaska Lecture Series | Geophysical Institute

The series brings current scientific research to communities throughout the state and serves as a method of collaboration between each major campus of the University of Alaska system, state and federal agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Each year, administrators, faculty, staff and the public weigh-in on possibilities for speakers and topics to be included in the popular lecture series. The result is a well-rounded event that pools expertise from scientists studying in various locales in Alaska, on topics as diverse as alternative energy to walruses.

via Science for Alaska Lecture Series | Geophysical Institute.

Nearly time for a new round of science lectures. Attend in person if you’re in Fairbanks or watch online when the lectures get posted to their YouTube playlist. See the 2016 Lecture page for a list of this year’s topics.


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