Pi = 3.2 says committee that is surely not at all drunk

Right, so. Many people here will have heard about Indiana’s attempt to legislate the value of pi. This was quite a long time ago, mind, but it’s still funny. I was just reminded of this by the delightful Pharyngula commenter Jaws. It inspired me to re-read an article from a couple years ago – before I started this blog. The story about the legislation is funnier than I remembered it.

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“Not as bad as Alabama” is hardly the same thing as “good.”

So, for amusement I will periodically go catch up with my reading on the US-centric but still wildly funny law blog, “Lowering the Bar”. Recently they have been covering the case of a Judge in Texas who, because of a rarely-remembered but still operant clause in the Texas state constitution, had the misfortune of accidentally resigning the judgeship he won in an election only three months before.

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Follow up to the Punisher cops: Logo Lawyer is Troubled

And FREEZE PEACH activists, for that matter.

One of the things that struck me the hardest in that story, at least after excluding the revelation that cops had actually placed punisher logos on their patrol cars anywhere, ever, much less huge logos covering nearly the entirely of the hoods, was the DeepThoughtsing™ of batshit dingleberry Roy Gutterman, head of the Syracuse Tully Center for Free Speech.

What did this “expert on communications law and the First Amendment” have to say that could help us appreciate precisely what had happened in Catlettsburg, Kentucky?

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When You Let George Zimmerman Get Away With Murder …

Apparently two white supremacists shot bullets, at least two shots, at two bi-racial siblings (16 yo and 12 yo) who were walking on a footpath that is property of a local church and intended and maintained for public use. The evil white supremacists arrested for those shots are James Reidnauer and Brent van Besien. They don’t claim that the fired no shots, but they do insist that they fired the shots because the children were “meth heads”.

There’s little mystery about their future defense: they can claim erratic behavior on the part of the children that scared them, then invoke stand your ground. We know that Zimmerman claimed he thought Martin might have been high. We know that Zimmerman, despite being a violent, horrible jerkface ended up being found not guilty at trial. Why should the white supremacists neglect a winning strategy?

This. This is the evil that your government encourages when it passes a stand your ground law. Every single such law should be opposed in every single jurisdiction that has passed or considers passing such a provision. Do not retreat from this fight. Go on offense. The mere existence of stand your ground laws is a threat: treat it as such and never back down.

PZ’s Pull Quote Leaves Me Cold: Racism, Sexism, & the Adjunct Crisis

PZ, as is his wont, has a post up about higher ed jobs and the outsourcing to adjuncts and guest lecturers of work that used to be done by the professoriate. It’s a good problem to highlight, but the article he quotes leaves me cold:

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Do you have to know the constitution if you’re just a member of congress? Devin Nunes asks Hannity to hold his beer.

That’s rights, transfolks and boring people, it’s another post about everyone’s favorite lawsuit, Devin Nunes’ US$250 million defamation complaint against Twitter, Liz Mair, Devin Nunes’ Mother, and Devin Nunes’ Cow. One of the things I plan to dive into later is that US$250 million figure. It’s all compensatory damages, and it is a major violation of every bar association’s code of conduct to file anything with the court that a lawyer knows to be false. In certain circumstances it can also be a violation if a lawyer should have known something to be false. There’s a case to be made here that Nunes’ lawyer should have his license suspended or revoked.

But what if you’re not the lawyer. What if your day job is a mere member of congress? Should you really be expected to know the law as a member of congress? Probably not all the law, but maybe a bit of constitutional law? Is asking our legislators to know a bit about the constitution asking a wee bit too much?

Oh, probably. But I’m in an asking mood.

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Follow The Love Cow of Perfidy, Not The Gourd

So my very first post on the topic of Devin Nunes extremely stupid suit against Twitter and 3 of its users was not actually on this blog. It was actually a comment over on Wonkette. Forgive me, but knowing Wonkette’s obsession with its own Love Cow joke, I thought first of them as soon as I read the news.

In that comment I began with something I didn’t include here. For completeness I reproduce my introductory remarks here:

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Devin Nunes and the Love Cow of Perfidy

So, if you aren’t aware – as you are probably not – there is an in-joke at Wonkette about Devin Nunes, the incompetent House Intel ranking member (and former committee chair) who lied about the state of the Russia investigation in order to defend Trump. The joke doesn’t really have much of a basis. There’s no “there” there. But years ago Nunes opposed a real estate deal, which if I understand correctly was a land swap of an on-campus parcel on the side of his college closest to neighborhoods for more land on the side of campus farther away. The point of the land swap from the school’s perspective was to get more land, with the immediate purpose of expanding or improving their Ag program and for long term flexibility in building facilities as needed. His opposition appeared to be based on his appreciation for the ag program as it then existed and included laudatory comments about the current ag facilities, which happened to include cows. On top of this, his family owned a dairy farm and he frequently refers to himself and his connection to dairy farming and loving his cows and loving the land of his farm in his campaigns. He did not stop when his family sold the dairy farm & moved to Iowa. This seemed to indicate some serious attachment to the mooers. And, finally, the degree he got in between episodes of protest against the forced relocation of cows was “Animal Husbandry”.

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Constitutional Law Everyone Thinks They Know: That Fiery Theater

So, everyone thinks they know a bit of constitutional law. And in many cases they actually do. How many senators does your USA state get? Who is the Head of State of Canada? These are questions that a great many people can answer correctly. But as soon as the answer gets slightly more complicated, we reach a weird zone where people aren’t able to admit we are in “I have no idea” territory yet, despite the fact that they clearly have no idea what’s going on.

Case in point: Can you or can you not shout, “Fire!” in a crowded theater? Spoiler alert: YES!

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Dishonest or Incompetent?

I’ll make clear again from the outset that I believe Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegation of an attempted sexual assault by Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I further believe that this is entirely sufficient to deny him confirmation to SCOTUS.

That said, I think that the more effective tactic to take in the media if one wants to get the sexist Republican Party senators to vote against his confirmation is not to stress Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony more than it has already been stressed. No, it should continue to be covered at similar levels to now, but what needs to be ramped up isn’t that. It’s the argument that Kavanaugh’s testimony is by itself also sufficient reason to deny his confirmation. The Intercept (a publication for which my respect declined in proportion with the decline in my respect for Glenn Greenwald, but which nevertheless does publish some – perhaps many – good things) has taken a similar tack. In a recent piece, Intercept authors Briahna Gray and Camille Baker attempted to demonstrate to non-lawyers and non-law students just how damaging Kavanaugh’s testimony on its own ought to be:

KAVANAUGH’S APPARENT WILLINGNESS to perjure himself over accusations of underage drinking or sexual innuendo — which, alone, don’t necessarily bear on his suitability for the bench — is troubling both because of what it implies about his integrity, and because of what it suggests about his reasoning as an adjudicator.

How should we judge someone who, during his testimony, repeatedly misrepresented facts and dissembled when pressed for detail? Should we understand these moments as lies, or as misinterpretations rooted in substandard analytical rigor? And given the importance of the position at hand, which is worse?

Note that here, if you’re not certain since they weren’t explicit, they’re trying to say that the excuse of misunderstanding a question does not save Kavanaugh. If he can’t parse the meaning of the questions as asked because of his own filters, then he won’t be able to parse other questions or statements that are necessary to resolve the questions at issue in cases that come before SCOTUS. Back to the Intercept:

Some of this may seem like parsing hairs, but the law, in large part, is parsing hairs. Easy questions don’t make it to the Supreme Court. Slam dunk cases settle out. Outside of constitutional issues, the Supreme Court only agrees to hear cases that are so subject to interpretation, they’ve been inconsistently decided between states or federal circuits. Analytical precision, therefore, is a big part of the job.

That being the case, it was concerning to hear a federal judge clamor for “due process” as he sidestepped an opportunity to call witnesses, hear evidence, or have his name cleared by a federal investigation. How should we view a federal judge who seems not to understand, or who for political reasons ignores, that he is not, in fact, on trial, but at a job interview? Who, either due to a lack of understanding or a surfeit of political ambition, emotes as though the stakes were that of a criminal proceeding where the high burden of proof would militate in his favor?

“DUE PROCESS” MEANS fair treatment under the law — that an accused person has notice of the proceedings being brought against them and an opportunity to be heard before the government takes away their life, liberty, or property. The fundamental goal of due process is to prevent the state from depriving people of their most precious freedoms. But Kavanaugh isn’t threatened with any of those deprivations. He’s not facing jail time, a fine, or any confiscation of personal goods. The stakes are these: whether he will go from sitting on the bench of the second most prestigious court in the land, to the first.

What matters, then, is whether Kavanaugh is of sufficiently fit character to fairly and ethically interpret the law. Thursday’s hearing, perhaps as much as the allegations against him, has thrown that into serious doubt.

Aside from the terrible phrase “parsing hairs”, Gray and Baker are dead on here. I expect the Republicans to ramble on about how bitches dems be lyin, and I think that they’ve frankly committed themselves to the fallout of their overt sexism and their overt stand against the idea that committing sexual assault might make one less fit for a seat on SCOTUS. However, I don’t think they’ve yet taken a stand to the effect that dishonesty under oath should not make one less fit for a seat on SCOTUS, nor do I think they’ve even thought about the ramifications of attempting to deploy the excuse of Kavanaugh misunderstanding questions.

Hammer your senators on the import of Blasey Ford’s testimony. However, if you’re calling your senators, I think you should also hammer them on these important issues of Kavanaugh’s dishonesty and his inability to parse important questions when the stakes are high.


[h/t to Mano for bringing the Intercept piece to my attention. I don’t normally read the website except when another outlet links to it and would never have found it without the writing of my FtB colleague.]