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Sai (saizai)
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Syncretist
Syncretist

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+SmarterEveryDay & +Trevor Mahlmann captured extremely unusual video. It's not just being in the path of totality for the solar eclipse. It's also within the <1s of the International Space Station transiting the sun, which is on a totally different path. There's literally only one place on Earth anyone could have taken this footage… and they got it, with perfect weather to boot. (Is it one time only, too? I have no idea how frequently ISS transits a total eclipse.) See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz249nYuBf0 & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKAu47B-ngE

Does anyone in London (UK) have a VR setup that I could use? I don't have the computing power (or flat space) in London to get my own.

I had my first experience with one yesterday, and it did … very weird things to my vision (which has never before had stereo fusion, due to strabismus) which I would like to explore further as possible way to retrain my brain to do stereo alignment / fusion. Will try to write up in more detail later when not in travel-panic mode… though tbh I'm not at all sure I can describe the post-VR qualia.

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You may have heard about the ways in which "court costs"—those mandatory fees imposed on people for being charged with a crime, fees which even judges can't waive—can ruin people, plunging them into inescapable cycles of debt. You may wonder how a reasonable system ended up so broken.

The answer is that this is not a good system that was turned bad: it’s a system that was rotten to the core from its very first day. Let me tell you the story.

(This appeared as a Twitter thread over the weekend; here it is in cleaner form, with many thanks to +A.V. Flox for helping me turn it into a post.)

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7/31/17
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This. Though it's mainly because of light-pain. Sometimes, because of other physical limitations, but light's the main one these days. I miss being able to enjoy basking in warmth on a sunny day.

Reminds me, I need to get a darker sleep mask. Mine leaks light through the fabric when it's really bright. Maybe I could get a patch of blackout fabric and layer it on top?

I'm doing a three-way double-blind active-placebo-controlled¹ trial of anti-migraine² medication, to see if it would fix my blindness. Some of the trial days, I've had … no light-pain at all.

I do not know how to react to this. It is very disorienting, in a way somewhat analogous to what it was like to lose my sight. I don't trust the sense of being able to look at fully lit things, it feels foreign, it's … a sort of phantom pain, almost.

Even low light levels haven't not been excruciatingly painful in years, and I was recently able to look directly at the bare kitchen ceiling light, as it turned on, without pain or flinching. Something about that feels very … ?wrong; it's just not how things Are™.

And of course I don't know yet whether it's meds or placebo. If it's only on the meds, then I have the whole fucked up years of psychs telling me it's conversion disorder and eye doctors saying there's nothing wrong with my eyes / optic nerve so it must not be biological. If it's also on the placebo, then fuck, maybe they're right.

Also these meds can only be taken like 10 days a month, or else you risk some long term shit. So if it does work, and they don't find something more long-term preventative, then I'll have the kinda fucked up choice of deciding which third of my days do I want to be able to see, and which two thirds will I continue to have light feel like it's stabbing me in the eyes. Plus probably dealing with people who can't comprehend someone being part-time blind and say I'm faking it or something. Or I'll lose my cane navigation skills, and be ironically less able to get around overall.

But on the other hand, maybe I can, y'know, not be blind in bright light at least some of the time. That would be nice.

This is assembled from late-night IMs, minimally cleaned up. I don't really have anything more cogent to say, so I figured I'd just post it as is.


¹ Active control ibuprofen; two different meds being tested. All packed in 00 capsules with flour for blinding. Alex puts 'em in a three-compartment container, without telling me which; I take one based on a spreadsheet random function, without telling him which and without looking at it. About as rigorous as possible in an n=1 trial.

² This is based on a UK ultra-specialty neurology clinic that two sub-sub-specialty neurologists in US referred me to. First doctor ever to have said that they have seen people with extreme photophobia like mine before; previous neurologists & neuro-ophthalmologists had no idea at all. The possible diagnosis being tested (atypical acephalgic migraine without visual aura) is a very rare condition, particularly in bio-males. But then, it's pretty much guaranteed that whatever I have is rare.

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About that Texas Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage rights…

The case is Pidgeon v. Turner, No. 15-0688 (Tex. June 30, 2017).¹

(Journalists: please always cite and link the original source of whatever legal / scientific / etc thing you're writing about. It's really annoying when you just describe it and I have to hunt it down to read for myself.)

Some articles² about it, IMO, seriously mischaracterize the ruling. So here's my own summary. (Page numbers are to original PDF¹.)


Background

From 2001–2005, both Houston and Texas passed laws making it illegal to give benefits to same-sex couples. (In particular as relevant here, this means health insurance for employees' same-sex spouse, like they do for employees' opposite-sex spouses.)

In 2013, SCOTUS ruled in United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 12, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013)³ that same sex couples have various due process rights. (That case was about taxes for a same-sex widow.) On the basis of Windsor, Houston's attorney and mayor (Turner) started same-sex couple insurance benefits.

Pidgeon (a Houston taxpayer/voter) promptly sued to stop this, because it violates city & state law. p. 5. The trial court agreed with Pidgeon, and issued a temporary injunction prohibiting Houston from continuing to give such benefits. p. 7.

The mayor/city made an immediate ("interlocutory") appeal (to the state appeals court). p. 7.

In June 2015, while the appeal was pending, SCOTUS ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015)⁴ that same sex couples are entitled to marriage. In July 2015, the 5th Circuit (which includes Texas) ruled similarly in De Leon v. Abbott, 791 F.3d 619 (5th Cir. 2015)⁵.

Both sides gave supplemental briefs to the appeals court. In late July 2015, the appeals court agreed with Houston, and vacated the temporary injunction, permitting the city to continue giving same-sex couple insurance benefits, on the basis of Obergefell & De Leon, and told the trial court to continue the case "consistent with" Obergefell & De Leon. p. 8–9.

Hodges promptly appealed that to the Texas Supreme Court. p. 9.


Ruling

The Texas Supreme Court ruled that:

1. 5th Circuit decisions aren't binding on the trial court (reason is too technical for tl;dr), so the appeals court shouldn't have told it to be "consistent with" De Leon, but only to take it as informative advice. p. 12–14.

2. While Pidgeon apparently wants Houston to "claw back" the money it spent on same-sex couples' insurance (i.e. make the recipients pay back the city for the cost), that's not what the trial court ruled, it wasn't on appeal, so it'll have to be dealt with by the trial court on remand. Also, that it's questionable whether Pidgeon even has standing to ask for this, but they're not ruling on that either until the trial court hears it. p. 15–17.

3. The court of appeals was wrong to decide the issue in light of intervening precedent (Obergefell & De Leon) when the trial court had never been briefed on that. p. 18–21. The court of appeals decision doesn't preclude Pidgeon from re-arguing the issue. p. 14–15. (Technicalities re reversal vs. vacatur omitted.)

4. tl;dr: All of the trial court's orders (i.e. including the injunction), and the court of appeals' ruling, go away. Everyone has to go back to the trial court, and have that court decide the issue over again based on intervening precedent.

It's back to the status it was in before Pidgeon sued, i.e. the city is not enjoined from continuing to give benefits same-sex spouses, but the legality of doing so is not decided.


IMHO

I think the Texas Supreme Court ruled correctly on this.

(I'm ignoring its dicta talking about how same-sex marriage is new and maybe not a good idea and so forth; just talking about the actual holding. For the record, I'm queer, my long-term boyfriend's gay, and I support same-sex marriage. This is my opinion about the legalities of the case, not about the immediate policy impact.)

Appeals courts should not be ruling on issues that the lower courts didn't have a chance to rule on. The correct course of action for the appeals court would have been to simply vacate the injunction (without a decision on its merits) and remand for further proceedings in light of intervening precedent.

Once the parties argue it out in the trial court, and it makes a decision, then the appeals court has something to review.

I would guess that the trial court will have to rule in favor of Turner / Houston, and hold the city & state laws prohibiting same-sex spousal benefits unconstitutional, given Obergefell.

However, it's not a 100% obvious conclusion. I can see ways to interpret Obergefell as making a more limited ruling which still allows states leeway to discriminate in how they deal with "extra" benefits like this that go beyond just being married per se. (I don't agree with them; I just think they're not absolutely precluded by the current case law.)


tl;dr: chill out. The Texas Supreme Court did not rule that it's OK to discriminate against same-sex couples. It did not say Hodges is right about the merits. It's a fairly limited, technical decision about appellate procedure.

It just said, basically, "the law has changed since this got appealed, so we're going to make it as if the injunction and appeal never happened; go back to the trial court and argue it over again".

Watch the case, to see what happens on remand.


¹ http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1438061/150688.pdf
https://casetext.com/case/pidgeon-v-mayor-sylvester-turner-1 may be more readable
² https://www.texastribune.org/2017/06/30/texas-supreme-court-ruling-houston-same-sex-marriage-benefits/
³ https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=6241888197107641609
⁴ https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf
https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=4071153045317445683

/ via https://www.metafilter.com/167940/Its-day-162-with-POTUS45-marking-another-helluva-week-in-US-news#7083397

Hello, world. I am back online now. This is my reason for going dark for the last few months: https://s.ai/work/legal_resume.pdf. I will write up something more explanatory later; please LMK any questions/comments to address.

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The Judicial Conference has proposed rules that would require lawyers to use electronic filing in federal courts, but prohibit people representing themselves from doing so without first getting court permission in any given case.

My formal comments explain why this has a wide range of harms that's completely unjustified by any of the concerns they raise, and suggest an alternative rule — give pro se litigants a rebuttable presumption letting them choose which method they want to use: drive.google.com/open?id=0BzmetJxi-p0VQVloa3l2c1IwZlE

All comments, proposed rules, etc are in the folders labeled 2016: drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BzmetJxi-p0VQ0lXWmJDdHBURUE

Going dark; help needed to maintain MYL

1. I have to go dark for a while.

This means no public/group visible online posting at all, no comment on most political / legal issues, and a few other things. I don't know for how long; probably anywhere from a couple months to a year, starting around the end of this month. TBD.

For now, that's all I can say. I hope to have an update later this month with some more details. FWIW, it's due to a good thing for once; just one that comes with some significant tradeoffs, this chief among them.

I am of course still interested in social contact, talking about subjects unrelated to law and politics, and staying informed about current events. I would appreciate being included in social events, private chats, etc.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me privately (https://s.ai/contact), though please understand that I may not be able to respond to some things.


2. I need help to take over my ongoing responsibilities by end of month, at least for the period while I'm semi-offline.

The most important is +Make Your Laws, which will be dormant during this period. Although MYL isn't currently engaged in any political activity (let alone partisan activity), I should still separate myself as much as possible for the interim.

I need a couple reliable people to take over minimal maintenance.

If you could do any subset of these things, please contact me privately ASAP. Some of it requires being a US citizen; some does not — just let me know your status and what you could do.

* basic sysadmin (installing apt / ruby / gem security patches, restarting puma if it dies and monit fails to catch it, etc)
* basic secretarial / data entry (downloading bank statements, entering the transactions into a google spreadsheet, making sure it matches)
* filing quarterly/semiannual FEC financial reports
* filing annual reports to IRS and Delaware (~1 page each per the 3 MYL corps; DE requires payment form MYL accounts)
* ensuring they have the money to keep operating, keeping an eye on expenses, not letting accounts go overdrawn, etc; everything should be on autopay, but there might be gaps to handle manually
* dealing with random things may come up - e.g. talking to IRS about filing / status issues, to Wells Fargo about account issues (possibly in person at a branch)
** very unlikely but possible: FEC inquiries; press; action on our pending rulemaking about contribution laundering (which they've been sitting on for 2 years)


I can bootstrap new people through any of this, and help behind the scenes a little bit if there's something baffling. We have pro bono lawyers if that's needed, a simple task/reminder system, and Google Apps (mainly drive & mail).

A couple non-maintenance things that would be even more helpful:
* paperwork for a small backdated salary to me from the c3, which was previously approved and would eg let me qualify for Social Security disability; I can't touch it due to conflict of interest
* coding (mainly ruby/rails & OSS) on eg payment processing, checkout, sharing, OFX sync, automating FEC reports, etc

The coding is the crucial part to having MYL actually launch. That's what's been holding it back; the legal and planning side is pretty much totally prepped.


That's about it for now — I need to shift my social life to avoid any public presence, and ensure MYL is maintained.

If you can help, I'd very much appreciate it.

It's going to be a big change for me, and disrupt a lot of my life… but I wouldn't do this if it weren't worth it. Sorry for the necessary temporary secrecy.

Please stay in touch.
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