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The portentous return of American protestant evangelical politics on the coattails of the Trump win has certainly been startling to me at least. As if to underscore this return is the announcement that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will take on the case No. 16-111 Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., et al., v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, et al. Petitioners.

According to the petition for a Writ of Certiorari, at issue is the following:

Whether applying Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel Phillips to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment

I for one sympathize with both parties. I would like to think that as a business man I had some control in the business arrangements I enter into. On the other hand, it seems quite reasonable that an order for a wedding cake should not be complicated by the theology of the baker. I gather that the sign over the door did not say “Bakery for Observant Christians Only”.

Having been in sales, I know there are a hundred ways to purposely kill a sale without it descending into a fight or bad feelings. A sky high price, a ridiculously long delivery time, kitchen remodeling, a diseased baker, etc. Ok, so it is a lie. It happens.

From my purchasing experience I know it is possible for a careful buyer to disclose as little information as possible so as not to cue a vendor to raise the price or decline to make an offer. The couple in question could have discretely asked for a cake without giving away their relationship or could have sent in a proxy. The figurine of a gay couple on top of the cake could have been purchased separately and set in place at a different location. Alternatively, the gay couple could have simply found another baker willing to do the job, say in Boulder to the north.

Yes, yes, yes. I know. Neither side should have to use subterfuge to complete this simple transaction. And neither side, in principle, should have to fear the consequences of their core values. But for crying out loud, this is Colorado Springs. A more conservative Christian enclave would be hard to find. The city is full of conservative retired military and a number of fundamentalist Christianist organization headquarters like Focus on the Family among others. But what are you going to do? Fight to the death everyone you find disagreeable? Does everything have to be consecrated to God? Crimony! Can’t there be secular activities like putting a lug nut on a bolt or buying baked goods?

If SCOTUS rules against Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel the petitioner to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage, then they will have set back the cause of LGBTQ rights, possibly for generations. Likewise, a ruling for the respondent might do similar damage for the conservative cause. Both sides could live with some ambiguity in this matter.

The notion that baking a cake for a gay couple somehow validates LGBTQ values seems to be a bit of a stretch. It seems to me that a conception of a God who would see the act of baking this cake with so negative a view as to impose an existential threat to the baker’s eternal salvation is to conjure up a very strange picture of the deity. If a human were to wield this kind of existential threat to the baker, that human might be regarded as psychopathic.

In my view, American evangelical Christianists have constructed a model of God in the image of a very cranky, peevish male human. A God who set the galaxies spinning, ignited our sun, breathed life into inanimate earth, and accounts for every flea riding the tail feathers of every bird would certainly have the insight and fatherly patience to see this gay Wedding Cake matter as a tempest in a teapot. Yes? Maybe? But perhaps that is me constructing God in the image of a mensch.

I like that- God as a mensch.

 

 

 

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A lot of science is about trying to find the best questions. Because the best questions can lead us to better answers. So, in the spirit of better questions here goes.

By loosening environmental regulations aimed at pollution prevention or remediation, the mandarins reporting to POTUS 45 have apparently made the calculation decided that some resulting uptick in pollution is justified by the jobs created thereby.

Question 1: For any given relaxation in regulations that result in an adverse biological, chemical or physical insult to the environment, what is the limit of tolerable adverse effect?

Question 2: How will the upper limit of acceptable environmental insult be determined?

Question 3: Will the upper limit of acceptable environmental insult be determined before or after the beginning of the adverse effect?

For a given situation there should be some ratio of jobs to acceptable environmental damage.

Example: By relaxing the rules on the release of coal mining waste into a river, X jobs are created and, as a result, Y households are denied potable drinking water. What is an acceptable ratio of X to Y?

Those are enough questions for now. Discuss amongst yourselves.

The blog Patently-O is a worthwhile site to visit periodically.  That is if you’re interested in the arcane cosm of patents like I am. The fellow who writes the blog is Dennis Crouch, Asst Prof. at the University of Missouri School of Law. The post on USPTO guidelines on obviousness is particularly interesting.  I find this to be the most vexing part of patent law. 

EDTexweblog documents patent litigation in the East Texas district. I especially like the litigation haiku.  Reference and comparison is made to Vogon poetry.

Anything Under the Sun, by Russ Krajek, is another useful site to visit if you want to glean useful tidbits on patent practice.  These sites are maintained by people interested in their field and are happy to share insights with others.

You know, I really do like Texans. I lived there for a few years and I think I have an accurate sense of the place.  But Texans are Texans. It really is “like a whole ‘nother country” sometimes.

The Texas legislature recently passed the Fish Fraud law which specifically addresses the problem of fraud at fishing tournaments. The bill passed the house 142 to 4 and the senate 30 to 1 and awaits signing by the governor.  The bill provides penalties for fraud starting at a Class A Misdemeanor for the first offense to a third degree Felony for fishing crimes involving greater than $10,000 in prize money.  

According to the article, game wardens and prosecutors approached Representative Dan Flynn about  a fish fraud incident at Lake Ray Hubbard east of Dallas in October of 2009. Rep Flynn jumped on this outrage and brought the beady eye of scrutiny to bear on those dark hearted anglers who dare to flim-flam fishing tournaments. Case in point:  A semi-pro angler forced a 1 pound weight into a 9.5 lb bass, misrepresenting the weight of the fish and thus defrauding the tournament organizers. 

Without the benefit of a Fish Fraud law, the crooked angler got 15 days in jail, 5 years of probation, and loss of his fishing license for the duration of his probation.

It certainly seems to me like Texas Justice was swift and unblinking in this case without a special law on the books. The miscreant who perpetrated this act was nabbed by the local constable and thrown behind bars.

Ever wonder why there are so many laws on the books? This is an example of how it happens. Somebody games the system and legislators rush in to pack legislative caulking into a perceived hole in the wall. The Texas legislature has felonized yet somethng else. 

Are we really better off with an ever expanding definition of felonious acts?  The fisherman’s wickedness is plain for all to see. But does this one case merit the enactment of yet one more piece of legislation?  If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Maybe it’s best if we take some time off from inventing new laws and look at what we’ve wrought?

Looks like the major law firms in the USA are pitching staff overboard. These corporate Zepplins have hit hard times as the money dries up. According to Law Shucks, this year 2,289 people have been laid off from the top tier firms as of this posting. 

It’s prob’ly a good time to getcher self a cheap deevorce, seein’s how there oughtta be a bunch’a hungry attorneys scratchin’ in the gutters.

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