Re: Dumb conspiracy theories on Scalia’s death

Enough with the conspiracy theories about Justice Scalia’s death

I read this earlier today:

“As a former homicide commander, I am stunned that no autopsy was ordered for Justice Scalia,” William O. Ritchie wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday, according to reports. After seeking to cast doubt on the conclusion of the deputy U.S. marshals who responded to a call from the ranch, he added, “My gut tells me there is something fishy going on in Texas.”

My gut tells me there is some fishing for attention going on in the head of the former D.C. police officer who said that.

Why?

Let’s consider this:

  1. Why?
  2. Why??
  3. Why???

Was it a Liberal conspiracy to get President Obama one more lasting decision about the future of United States legal policy?

Was it a “Conservative” conspiracy to give Congressional Republicans and presidential candidates something “meaningful” to “stand up” to Obama about?

Was it Ancient Aliens?

There was no autopsy, they say! There was a pillow above his head, they say! The President was told long before anyone else, they say (as if the President doesn’t get most of the news before everyone else…)!

Conspiracy theorists demand: “What is your proof Scalia wasn’t murdered?”

These stupid theories remind me of one of the frequent arguments levied against atheists: “What is your proof that there is no god??”

Who proved god exists in the first place?

Pillows

Many articles note the ranch owner who found Scalia said there was a pillow above his head, and many conspiracy theorists point to this as suspicious. I sleep with a pillow over my head every night, and another one underneath it, using the two to drown out the sounds of an increasingly conspiratorial world so I can maintain my slumber all night long.

No conspiracy. Just a light sleeper.

Politics aside

I disagreed with much of Justice Scalia’s Supreme Court jurisprudence but his presence on the Court was invaluable to the development of United States law and the debates from which it springs.

He articulated his positions in such a way that I (almost always) respected them, even when I found it hard to believe someone so intelligent was seriously asserting them. He was rarely conclusory, giving reasons for his views, and whether you agreed with those reasons or not, that’s more than most politicians (and lawyers) usually do.

His death is a loss, but there are few more certain paths to some sort of immortality than thirty years on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Photo: Then-nominee Antonin Scalia, right, with President Ronald Reagan in 1986, via Wikipedia

Retiring founder wants $1M for his SCOTUS audio archive

Retiring founder wants $1M for his SCOTUS audio archive

Oyez is a robust archive of audio recordings and other information spanning much of the history of the Supreme Court of the United States. Its founder Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Jerry Goldman is looking for a buyer as he nears retirement. Jess Bravin reports at the Wall Street Journal:

The sticking point, however, isn’t the annual budget; Harvard Law School, for one, has offered to pick up the operating cost. But Mr. Goldman also wants to be paid for the sweat he’s put into his baby–or at least the intellectual property it represents—something he estimates is worth well over $1 million.

Here comes an entitled opinion right here: A decision to somehow “close down” Oyez if no one is willing to put up six or seven figures for it would be morally bankrupt and stain Professor Goldman’s otherwise admirable legacy.

No Rey, No Way

LucasFilm to toy vendors: No Rey

Michael Boehm at Sweatpants and Coffee:

The insider, who was at those meetings, described how initial versions of many of the products presented to Lucasfilm featured Rey prominently. At first, discussions were positive, but as the meetings wore on, one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the Star Wars products. Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise, said the insider.

I want to be infuriated and surprised by this revelation, but I’m just infuriated.

U.S. DOT paving way for self-driving cars (and a Klingons aside)

U.S. DOT paving way for self-driving cars

Chris Ziegler reports at The Verge:

DOT and NHTSA will develop the new tools necessary for this new era of vehicle safety and mobility, and will seek new authorities when they are necessary to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles, including those designed without a human driver in mind, are deployable in large numbers when demonstrated to provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than is now available.

This is far more progressive than I expected the federal government to be on the autonomous transportation vehicle front, primarily for safety reasons. It’s good news.

Continue reading

Cosby charged with sexual assault

Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania

The TV legend is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand when she visited his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. A probable cause affidavit filed by investigators this week alleges that Cosby “sought to incapacitate” Constand by giving her a mix of pills and wine that sent her slipping in and out of consciousness and left her unable to consent to sexual activity.

Ms. Constand settled her civil case against Mr. Cosby but the latter’s statements in a deposition taken for that case and released to the public by request of the press triggered the Montgomery County District Attorney’s obligation to prosecute Cosby.

Is sending porn illegal in Pennsylvania?

Is sending porn illegal in Pennsylvania?

Dave Davies writes on his WHYY blog, Off Mic:

It’s right there in the state crimes code; it’s a third-class misdemeanor to “sell, lend, distribute, transmit, exhibit, or give away or show any obscene materials to any person 18 years of age or older…” (There’s a separate statute prohibiting distribution of pornography to anyone younger than 18.)

He’s right, you can find it at 18 Pa . C.S. 5903. Davies goes on to explain the difficulty of defining “obscenity,” a function of the concept’s basis in community standards which can vary from community to community.

Laser-armed fighter jets by 2020

Laser-armed fighter jets by 2020

Thom Patterson writes for CNN:

Here’s how Air Force special ops might use them: The commander of USAF special ops, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, said last September that by 2020 he wants them on C-130J Ghostrider gunships for landing zone protection.

The laser weapons would take out possible threats like enemy vehicles, or disable infrastructure such as cell towers.

I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night (more on that coming in an article later) so laser weapons seem an appropriate story to share today.

Sorry HR, your job descriptions suck

Machine Intelligence In The Real World

[…] Textio is a text editor that recommends improvements to job descriptions as you type. With it, I can go from a 40th percentile job description to a 90th percentile one in just a few minutes, all thanks to a beautifully presented machine learning algorithm.

I respect Human Resources professionals. Their job can be shitty. But so can their job descriptions. The prospects who know what you mean by “incumbent” are probably too pedantic and detail-oriented to apply to the likely underpaid and/or intellectually vapid position you’re hiring for. The ones who don’t know what you mean don’t actually know what they’re applying to, which makes them terrible prospects.

If machine learning can remedy that, I hope it gains wider use. But I don’t think machine learning is necessary to stop writing the kind of drivel that passes for a job description these days. It’s a classic failure of capitalism: when demand dramatically outstrips supply, quality decreases without consequences to the supplier. This goes for jobs, treatment by employers, and even job descriptions. They were never exactly the pinnacle of eloquence, but I’ve seen a serious decline in the past year or so.

Many legal filings written by attorneys are also full of reader-hostile jargon and nonsense clearly included because the lawyer’s writing professor said it should be included, or because the named partner at their first firm always used it. It’s one of the most infuriating and offensive aspects of modern U.S. professional culture as far I’m concerned:

“We do it this way because we do it this way, because the people before us did it this way, that’s why we do it this way.”

Never, ever say that to me. It triggers an almost instinctual, lizard-brain contempt in me and an assumption that whoever said it is incapable of critical thinking or analytical reasoning, and I can be a real asshole when I think that about someone.

“A slower-track school where they do well”

“A slower-track school where they do well”

I’m just going to leave this Justice Scalia quote right here:

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African­ Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­-advanced school, a slower-­track school where they do well.

Further reading: