July 12, 2005
Disposable Litmus Test Could Determine Next Supreme Court Justice
Interrogating nominees for the Supreme Court is as old-fashioned as it is ineffective. The new way of getting at deeply held personal beliefs: disposable litmus tests that reveal ideological positions—and an array of lifestyle proclivities—in under a minute. The tests, taken by the nominee in the privacy of his or her chambers, can predict future decisions on issues from torture to the Ten Commandments.
Critics warn that some nominees may be tempted to cheat
WASHINGTON, DC—It is a confirmation conundrum: US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been a loyal supporter of torture in the past, but will he continue to stand by the intentional infliction of pain and suffering once he takes a spot atop the nation's highest court?
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No more waiting
In the past, party loyalists would have been forced to wait months—even years—to assess Gonzales' fidelity to the issues they hold dear. But now scientists say that they have an answer to this perennial problem: disposable litmus tests that can discern a Supreme Court nominee's true position on issues ranging from torture to the Ten Commandments—in less than a minute.
Litmus test results—in just seconds
While litmus tests for Supreme Court nominees have been around for decades, the expected confirmation battle over a replacement for retired justice Sandra Day O'Conner will be the first time that disposable litmus tests will be used to ferret out the deeply held personal beliefs of potential nominees.
How does it work? Simply and effectively, says the team of scientists responsible for the 'bench' breakthrough. Prospective nominees use the throw-a-way position predictor in the privacy of their own chambers; results are indicated by the appearance of a red or blue line.
Out of the main 'stream'
"In the past, Senators have been forced to ask Supreme Court nominees questions, or worse, read through stacks of paper to get at what these people believe," explains lead scientist Simon Starkey, who modeled his disposable litmus tests on the drug tests now required by a growing number of employers. "But it makes sense that a nominee won't just hold his or her deeply held beliefs inside. He or she will excrete them too."
'P' is for politics
Starkey and his team have identified a total of seventeen key issues that are likely to make or break a nominee's confirmation chances, including abortion, the Ten Commandments, gay marriage, private property and evolution. A nominee with staunchly conservative views on these, for example, will produce strong red lines in each issue box, while a liberal nominee will produce strong blue lines. A Souter or Kennedy would likely produce the dotted lines of treachery.
Looking beneath the robe
But these disposable ideology indicators will also reveal plenty about the nominees' proclivities, those hard to measure lifestyle choices so important in today's values climate. Does the nominee have homosexual tendencies, for instance? Might he—or she—have a proclivity to violate the Seventh Commandment, the Biblical ban on adultery, or the Tenth Commandment against covetousness? Most importantly, will the nominee have a tendency to become an activist judge, and if so, the right kind of activist judge?
"Obviously you don't want to confirm to the High Court someone who is ruling against gays by day but then engaging in furtive same-sex coupling when the sun goes down," explains Dr. Starkey. "This test is a way to prevent that from happening again."
Critics warn that test 'pisses' on civil liberties
Despite the obvious benefits of the disposable litmus tests, not everyone is applauding their use by Supreme Court nominees. Some civil libertarians are warning that the tests could unfairly disqualify nominees who suffer from Political Paranoia Disorder, a debilitating ideological affliction that now affects as many as half of all Americans.
US vs. cheaters
And cynics are warning that some nominees may make the same choice made by millions of Americans when subjected to mandatory drug testing: they'll cheat. Because the nominees are able to take the test in the privacy of their own chambers, goes this view, they may be tempted to substitute synthetic conservative urine in place of their own more liberal liquid.
Will Gonzales go?
Meanwhile, sources close to Alberto Gonzales say that the Attorney General has already received his disposable litmus test and is prepared to take the private exam just as soon as he gets the orders from his close friend, President George W. Bush. "He's understandably nervous," says an advisor to Mr. Gonzales. "He's spending his days boning up on key conservative positions and just hoping that everything comes out all right in the end."
What other tests should prospective Supreme Court justices be forced to take? Talk back to Hermione Slatkin.
July 12, 2005 | Permalink
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Posted by: Martha Stewart | July 12, 2005 01:24 PM
A very insightful story, indeed. And well punctuated with good grammar!
The final paragraph (describing the Atty General's heated efforts) speaks volumes about why the White House has had to use so much elbow grease on the Conservative rear guard just to get Gonzalez'a foot, so to speak, in the door.
Posted by: CryptoCat | July 12, 2005 07:36 AM