Indiana native. Purdue grad. Programmer / Dev Ops in trade. Dog owner. Husband and father. Have questions? Ask!
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When I was a sysadmin at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the grad students asked me if I knew that “gullible” was missing from the dictionary. This is the oldest trick in the book.

“Huh, really?” I said, and turned to my open terminal session. “Lemme see…”

    % grep gullible /usr/dict/words  || echo missing
    missing

“…How about that! It's true!”

He was very surprised, and somewhat annoyed that his trick hadn't worked.

Wouldn't you expect that gullible would be in the word list used by the Unix spell checker? Usually it is, but I was the sysadmin of that machine, and I had removed it a couple of years before, just in case.

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RyanAdams
21 days ago
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Central Indiana
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LAWSPLAINER: No, Kavanaugh's Confirmation Won't Free All Of Trump's Crimimous Minions Through An Obscure Double Jeopardy Case

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I should not have to do this. But here we are.

There's a political rumor/meme/argument going around in the last couple of weeks among people opposed to Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court. It's a theory that Trump is rushing Kavanaugh onto the Court so he can rule on an obscure double jeopardy case and open the way for Trump to pardon his underlings in a way that prevents them from being prosecuted by the states. Josh Barro and I knocked it down in this week's edition of All The President's Lawyers. But it persists. NBC has a column pushing it today. It's become so widespread that Snopes has gotten into the act, sort of explaining the structure of it and giving it undeserved cachet.

Here's the problem: the theory is wrong, or at least, wildly exaggerated in certainty and significance.

Here's why.

The issue at hand is the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which says the government can't "for the same offence . . . .be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." Most commonly double jeopardy means that the government can't charge you again with the same thing after they lose at trial. There's a notorious exception to it called the "Separate Sovereigns" or "Dual Sovereignty" Doctrine. Under this doctrine, different "sovereigns" can try you for the same crime because they have separate interests in punishing the crime. This most commonly allows the federal government and a state to prosecute you for the same crime, on the theory that they have distinct interests and reasons to do so. This famously happened when the federal government prosecuted the police officers who beat Rodney King even after they were acquitted in state court.

The Dual Sovereignty Doctrine has always been controversial and somewhat unpopular. This term, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case in which it could overturn the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine. That case is Gamble v. United States — you can read all about it here, on the indispensable SCOTUSblog.

The theory/meme/warning goes like this: Trump wants Kavanaugh on the Court immediately, so Kavanaugh can hear Gamble and vote to wipe out the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine, and then, once Trump pardons his various relatives and underlings and lawyers for federal crimes, they will no longer be subject to state prosecution for the same crimes. He'll be able to spare his whole criminal enterprise! It's obstruction/RICO!

No.

There's a bunch of things wrong with this wild-eyed theory.

Let's start with the fact that the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine has never been a clean left/right conservative/liberal issue. This isn't a situation where it's clear there's a 4/4 split and the conservative Judge Kavanaugh is needed to break it. So, for instance, in Heath v. Alabama in 1985, when the question was whether to extend the doctrine to two separate states prosecuting the same crime, seven justices extended it; the two who dissented were Brennan and Marshall, the liberals. In 2016, the issue returned to the Supreme Court in Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Vale. There the issue was whether the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine applied to Puerto Rico — is Puerto Rico, as a territory of the United States, a "separate sovereign" from the United States, or not? The Court held that Puerto Rico was not separate for these purposes and thus Puerto Rico and the United States could not prosecute someone for the same crime. Justices Ginsburg and Thomas — hardly ideological allies – concurred, but questioned whether the Supreme Court should revisit the viability of the Separate Sovereignty Doctrine. "I write only to flag a larger question that bears fresh examination in an appropriate case. The double jeopardy proscription is intended to shield individuals from the harassment of multiple prosecutions for the same misconduct . . . . Current “separate sovereigns” doctrine hardly serves that objective." (Ginsburgh, joined by Thomas, concurring.) The other justices did not question the doctrine. Thus, if the Doctrine is in serious danger of being overturned (and two justices questioning it is not enough to say that it is), it's in danger not just from the right, but from the left. And because it's not a clean left/right issue, we can't assume we know where Kavanaugh would come down on it.

More importantly, though, the connection between the doctrine and Trump pardons is bunk.

Double Jeopardy prevents successive prosecutions for the same crime, not related crimes. So — even if Kavanaugh swung the Supreme Court to overturn the Separate Sovereigns Doctrine, and even if Trump then went on a pardoning rampage to spare Ostrich Jacket and Idiot Lawyer and Junior and Dummy and so forth — Tump's pardon would only prevent state prosecution for the same crime that Trump pardoned them for federally. What's the "same crime?" Under the so-called Blockburger rule, two crimes are not the "same" if each one requires proof of an element that the other does not — that is, if each has at least one unique element. So: Trump's pardon can only prevent state prosecutions to the extent the state crimes have the same elements as the federal crimes he's pardoning. They usually don't. Gamble, the litigant in the case before the Court, points this out himself:

Because this Court deems two crimes to be different offenses any time “each offense contains an element not contained in the
other,” Dixon, at 696 (discussing Blockburger, 284 U.S. at 304), it will still be the unusual case in which the federal and state governments may not both bring some charge based on the same criminal occurrence.

Similarly, the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center filed a friend of the Court brief in support of neither party laying out historical issues for the Court. That Center has a historical interest in civil rights laws, which have often involved Dual Sovereignty Doctrine prosecutions (as it did in the Rodney King case). The center concurs that overturning the doctrine would not prevent dual prosecutions:

Under Blockburger v. United States, federal civil rights statutes concerning law enforcement misconduct are not the “same offense” as State
statutes that may cover the same or similar underlying conduct. Thus, overruling dual sovereignty should not eliminate the federal government’s ability to prosecute these types of civil rights cases after the State has previously prosecuted a case that was tried to verdict.

So: even if Kavanaugh helps overturn the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine, Trump cannot insulate his underlings with pardons — particularly because many of them face uniquely state-law issues, like state tax violations or violations of other state laws. Could Trump pardons preclude state prosecution for some state crimes that are identical to federal crimes? Yes. But the notion that such state prosecutions are even in the works is purely speculative.

There are plenty of reasons you might oppose Judge Kavanaugh. This one is an over-complicated bag of hot air, approaching a Twitter conspiracy theory.

Copyright 2017 by the named Popehat author.
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RyanAdams
38 days ago
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cjmcnamara
38 days ago
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phew

The Rise and Fall of The Learning Company

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Abigail Cain:

Both Reader Rabbit and Cluefinders were the work of The Learning Company (TLC), a dominant player in the realm of educational software during its peak in the late 1980s and ’90s. At a certain point, TLC owned pretty much every computer game that mattered to millennials: The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, even Oregon Trail. But by 2000, the company was in financial shambles — and, in what was labeled one of the worst business deals of all time, almost took a Fortune 500 company down with it.

[…]

SoftKey renamed itself The Learning Company to take advantage of its strong reputation, continuing to gobble up industry powerhouses including MECC, in 1995, and Brøderbund, in 1998. All told, SoftKey bought more than 20 entities, becoming the world’s second largest consumer software company after Microsoft in the process.

[…]

According to Osterwiel, the industry never fully recovered. The problems that plagued it during its previous downswing persist today, albeit with more advanced technology. Apps are the new medium for educational games — but they sell for $1 apiece, an amount that would have been “the price of postage” to mail a game on CD-ROM, Buckleitner noted wryly. Quality research and development is practically impossible with that sort of profit margin.

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RyanAdams
40 days ago
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We don't use the front door ever under any circumstance

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Culinary innovator and podcast host Georgia Hardstark asked the Internet "What's a weird thing your family did that you thought was normal till you moved out?"
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RyanAdams
48 days ago
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The comments are amazing.
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Why Mathematicians Can’t Find the Hay in a Haystack

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The first time I heard a mathematician use the phrase, I was sure he’d misspoken. We were on the phone, talking about the search for shapes with certain properties, and he said, “It’s like looking for hay in a haystack.”

“Don’t you mean a needle?” I almost interjected. Then he said it again.

In mathematics, it turns out, conventional modes of thought sometimes get turned on their head. The mathematician I was speaking with, Dave Jensen of the University of Kentucky, really did mean “hay in a haystack.” By it, he was expressing a strange fact about mathematical research: Sometimes the most common things are the hardest to find.

“In many areas of mathematics you’re looking for examples of something, and examples are really abundant, but somehow any time you try to write down an example, you get it wrong,” said Jensen.

The hay-in-a-haystack phenomenon is at work in one of the first objects that kids encounter in mathematics: the number line. Points on the number line include the positive and negative integers (such as 2 and –29), rational numbers (ratios of integers like $latex \frac{3}{2}$ and $latex \frac{1}{137}$) and all irrational numbers — those numbers, like pi or $latex \sqrt{2}$, that can’t be expressed as a ratio.

Irrational numbers occupy the vast, vast majority of space on a number line — so vast, in fact, that if you were to pick a number on the number line at random, there is literally a 100 percent chance that it will be irrational.*

Yet despite their overwhelming presence, we almost never encounter irrational numbers in our daily lives. Instead we count with whole numbers and follow recipes with fractions. The numbers we know best are the extremely rare numbers, the special numbers — the needles in the haystack.

The hay is hard to find precisely because it’s so unexceptional. Rational numbers have the distinctive property that it’s possible to write them down. This calls them to our attention. Irrational numbers have an infinite decimal expansion. You couldn’t write one down even with an endless amount of time. That these numbers lack the exceptional property of “write-down-able-ness” is what makes them nearly invisible to our way of seeing.

“We’re looking with a magnet, and you’re not going to find hay with magnet; you’re only going to find needles,” said Dhruv Ranganathan, a mathematician who is in the midst of a move from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the University of Cambridge.

The search for hay in a haystack characterizes many different areas of math, including the subject of my most recent Quanta article, “Tinkertoy Models Produce New Geometric Insights.” There I wrote about mathematicians who are investigating the relationship between geometric shapes and the equations used to describe them. In rare cases, objects can be expressed by simple equations. These are the needles, the shapes we know best: lines, parabolas, circles, spheres.

The overwhelming preponderance of shapes resist such elegant formulation. They may be everywhere, but because you can’t write down the equations that describe them, it’s hard to establish that even a single one of them exists.

In my article, I explained how techniques from a field called “tropical geometry” serve as an especially sly way of deducing the existence of these ubiquitous geometric objects — the ones that, like the irrational numbers, are everywhere, even if you can’t write them down.

In mathematics it often happens that either something doesn’t exist, or it exists in abundance. The nature of those abundant objects might make them hard to detect, but if you’re a mathematician and you believe they’re there, and you believe they constitute almost all of everything, your task is straightforward: Find just one.

It’s as if you were convinced the oceans were filled with water, said Ranganathan, but every time you took a sample, you came up with something else — a shell, a rock, a plant. Yet to start to believe your hypothesis was correct, you’d hardly need to empty the sea.

“All you have to do is find any water,” he said. “One droplet of water will do.”



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RyanAdams
50 days ago
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jlvanderzwan
53 days ago
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I kind of wonder if this isn't a bit of a perspective problem, like saying "there is infinitely more space than there is stuff occupying that space, yet we can't touch it"

What's your favorite piece of trivia?

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There's good trivia and bad trivia. Bad trivia is mere fact (e.g. the population of Toronto is .....). Good trivia is entertaining, surprising, insightful. What's your favorite bit of good trivia?
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RyanAdams
62 days ago
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