Some Helpful Illustrations for the Willfully Obtuse

It seems that despite many patient and helpful explanations over the years, some fanchildren in our community (and others) are still quite confused. They keep mistaking our social media spaces for  courtrooms and discussions for trials. Since reading comprehension would appear to be absent from their Skeptical Toolkit, perhaps some illustrations may be of assistance.

This is a courthouse:

Graham County Courthouse, Safford, Arizona. Image and caption by Ken Lund via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Graham County Courthouse, Safford, Arizona. Image and caption by Ken Lund via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In this building, you will find things like judges, juries, and lawyers. This is where people go when they are suing or prosecuting someone.

These are social media spaces:

Social media logos for Twitter, G+, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Pinterest, and WordPress.

Social media logos for Twitter, G+, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Pinterest, and WordPress.

These are places where people go to informally discuss things. You may find judges, jurors, and lawyers talking within them, but they are not there in their official capacity. People are having conversations, not giving sworn testimony.

This is a judge:

Image is a baliff handing a judge some papers.

Judge Betty Lou Lamoreaux, 1980. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.

A judge has to remain impartial because they are presiding over a legal proceeding.

This is an ordinary person:

Image is a young man smiling at the camera, leaning against something that rather looks like the inside of a wooden ship.

Sunlight stripes @ Henderson Wave Bridge. Image by Jason D’ Great via Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Ordinary people can be judgmental, but they are not actual judges. They don’t have to remain impartial because they are not presiding over a legal proceeding, and cannot sentence someone to prison if they think that person is guilty.

This is a trial:

Image is a lawyer and witness on the witness stand. The witness is looking at some papers she is showing him.

An attorney impeaching a witness during a mock trial competition. Photo and caption by Eric Chan via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

There are legal rules to follow because it is a legal proceeding. In a trial, there are things like rules of evidence and admissibility and stuff, because it is the power of the state against a person.

This is a conversation or discussion:

Image is a silhouette of many people talking.

Conversation by OUTography via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Conversations and discussions are informal and do not have the force of testimony. Legal rules such as rules of evidence do not have to be followed because the people talking are not representing the state, and are not making determinations that will have the force of law.

Perhaps the above illustrations will help the terminally obtuse figure out where and when legal rules should be followed, and where and when less formal standards are expected.

Additionally, for those who still haven’t figured out the difference between a convention and a courtroom, allow me to add the following:

This is a hotel:

Image is a courtyard at the Hotel Miramar.

Hotel Miramar by Son of Groucho via Flickr.

This is where people go to attend conventions. Most people who go to conventions don’t want to be creeped on, and thus have a tendency to avoid creeps. This is called “freedom of association.” It is a right that everyone has. Calling someone a creep and telling other people who want to avoid creeps whom they may wish to avoid is not the same as going to a courthouse and prosecuting someone.

These are police officers:

Image shows several police officers standing around the open back of a police van.

Police officers making an arrest. Photo by Andrew Feinberg via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

These are the people who will arrest you if you are suspected of doing something illegal and are going to be put in jail. They will do things like read you your rights, because they are law enforcement officials.

This is a security guard:

Image is a man in a uniform with a neon vest that says Security.

Goddard Security Guard. Photo by NASA/GSFC/Mark T. Hubbard via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This is who will throw your ass out of the hotel if you are violating the convention policies and upsetting other guests. They won’t read you your rights, because they are not law enforcement officers who are taking you to jail.

 

Interlude: Moment of Silence

Memorial to the people killed in the May 18th, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Johnston Ridge Volcano Obervatory, Mount St. Helens, WA.

REID TURNER BLACKBURN

WALLACE NORWOOD BOWERS

JOEL K. COLTEN

RONALD LEE CONNER

TERRY A. CRALL

CLYDE ANDREW CROFT

JOSE A. DIAS

ELLEN DILL

WILLIAM (BILL) DILL

ARLENE H. EDWARDS

JOLENE H. EDWARDS

BRUCE EDWARD FADDIS

JAMES F. FITZGERALD JR.

THOMAS G. GADWA

ALLEN R. HANDY

PAUL HIATT

DAVID A. JOHNSTON

DAY ANDREW KARR

DAY BRADLEY KARR

MICHAEL MURRAY KARR

BOB M. KASEWETER

CHRISTY LIANN KILLIAN

JOHN G. KILLIAN

HAROLD (BUTCH) KIRKPATRICK

ROBERT E. LANDSBURG

ROBERT LYNDS

GERALD O. MARTIN

GERALD LLOYD MOORE

KEITH A. MOORE

SHIRLEY (SAM) MOORE

KEVIN CHRISTOPHER MORRIS

MICHELLE LEA MORRIS

EDWARD JOSEPH MURPHY

ELEANOR JEANNE MURPHY

DONALD R. PARKER

JEAN ISABELL PARKER

NATALIE ALI PARKER

RICHARD A. PARKER

WILLIAM PAUL PARKER

MERLIN JAMES PLUARD

RUTH KATHLEEN PLUARD

FRED D. ROLLINS

MARGERY ELLEN ROLLINS

PAUL F. SCHMIDT

BARBARA LEA SEIBOLD

RONALD DALE SEIBOLD

DONALD JAMES SELBY

EVLANTY V. SHARIPOFF

LEONTY V. SKOROHODOFF

DOUG THAYER

HARRY R. TRUMAN

JAMES S. TUTE

VELVETIA (VELVET) TUTE

KAREN MARIE VARNER

BEVERLY C. WETHERALD

KLAUS ZIMMERMAN

 

Previous: Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Volcano Could Be Nearing a Major Event.”

Next: The Cataclysm: “Vancouver! Vancouver! This Is It!”

 

Originally published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

They Lied. Imagine That.

Heh. I’d like to see the pollution industry try to spin this one away:

The New York Times exposes an internal document (PDF) from the Global Climate Coalition, a group funded by the oil and auto industries, that shows that their own scientists were confirming the reality of human-caused global warming and the effects of greenhouse gasses as early as 15 years ago even while publicly trying to dispute that reality.

The document is from 1995 and it was a “primer” on the various issues being sent around to the auto companies for approval. It essentially admits that global warming is real and human-caused, that many of the counter-arguments are false and that we don’t yet have good enough predictive technology to know the full effects, especially in local areas. It begins by saying:

The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.

[snip]

The contrarian theories raise interesting questions about our total understanding of climate processes, but they do not offer convincing arguments against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate change. Jastrow’s hypothesis about the role of solar variability and Michaels’ questions about the temperature record are not convincing arguments against any conclusion that we are currently experiencing warming as the result of greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words: global warming’s real, humans are the main factor in causing it. Suck on that, bitches.

Of course, it won’t change Big Pollution’s behavior. The polluters will still lie and moan and try to deny the science. They’ll still find greedy fucks willing to sell their souls for silver, and stupid fucks eager to believe. But it just got that much harder.

A Valuable Synopsis of the U.S. Attorney Firings Scandal

On Monday, the Office of the Inspector General released a report on the politicized firings of several United States Attorneys by the Bush Regime. Talking Points Memo brings the whole sordid saga together in one easy-to-read, essential report. Some highlights:

Almost since the scandal broke early last year, there have been clear signs that the plan to fire U.S. attorneys as a means of advancing the Bush administration’s political goals was being driven by the White House. That impression has been strengthened as top current and former White House officials, including Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, have consistently stonewalled efforts to look into the matter.

[snip]

The White House’s active involvement in the firings, as depicted in the [OIG] report, can be divided into two broad categories: First, its role in initiating and promoting the overall plan to remove an unspecified number of U.S. attorneys — traditionally treated as apolitical prosecutors who operate independently from the political agenda of the administration — deemed insufficiently committed to the Bush agenda. And second, its apparent work in pushing specifically for several of the most high-profile dismissals.

[snip]

Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’ then chief of staff at DOJ, and the point man on the firing plan, told OIG investigators that, some time after the 2004 election, White House counsel Harriet Miers asked him whether the administration should try to get all 93 U.S. attorneys to resign, as part of a plan to replace all political appointees for the new term. Sampson said he argued against this idea.

[snip]

Still, the White House seems to have kept pressing. In January 2005, Sampson received an email from a Miers deputy, which said: “Karl Rove stopped by “to ask … ‘how we planned to proceed regarding US Attorneys, whether we are going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc.’ ” [Quotation marks rendered as in the report]. A few days later, Sampson replied: “If Karl [Rove] thinks there would be political will to do it, then so do I.”

The following month, Sampson told OIG, Miers followed up, asking him for a list of possible U.S. attorneys to get rid of. Sampson dutifully responded with his first list, which contained the names of four USAs who ultimately were axed, as well as ten who weren’t.

[snip]

The dismissal in which the White House played the greatest role was that of Bud Cummins, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Cummins, the report makes clear, was removed not because of shortcomings in his own record, either political or performance-based, but because the White House wanted to move a GOP political operative, Timothy Griffin, in to the job.

[snip]

The White House’s role in the firing of David Iglesias as U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico appears to have been less direct than that of Cummins – but the report makes clear that it was involved nonetheless.

[snip]

At a November 15 White House meeting, Wilson put in another complaint to Rove about Iglesias. This time, he told her: “That decision has already been made. He’s gone.” But as the report notes, the first list from Sampson to include Iglesias’ name would not be sent to Miers until a few hours later. In other words, Rove’s knowledge that Iglesias was to be fired suggests this wasn’t a decision made solely by DOJ.

Read the whole thing. It paints a concise and terrifying picture of a White House determined to create an army of U.S. Attorneys slavishly loyal to them.

Law enforcement is too powerful and too essential to a civilized society to politicize. Police, attorneys and judges need to be loyal to the law, not partisian ideology. Democracy can’t survive when the long arm of the law is wielded by a political party.

We need to push for the truth in this, and we need to ensure that the partisan hacks who were installed during Bush’s rule are bunged out on their ears.