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No man should be a judge in his own case

Friday, October 5th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — lady justice courted by an unsuitable suitor? ]
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Kavanaugh‘s op-ed. and my learned friend’s comment:

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Sources:

  • Wikipedia, Nemo iudex in causa sua
  • Wall Street Journal, I Am an Independent, Impartial Judge
  • **

    One of the texts embedded in our Zenpundit graphical header is by James Madison in Federalist 10:

    No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.

    I think we have two or three headers, so look up at the top of this page and you may see it..

    **

    Of course, writing an op-ed isn’t a judgment, it’s not an amicus curiae brief either — it’s advocacy, in fact self-representation. So maybe the better legal tag would be:

    A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.

    Even that’s not exact, but I don’t know quite how to pin it down: something is fishy in the state of play? Is that vague enough? I think there’s an ouroboros loose in the title of Judge Kavanaugh’s op-ed, is all..

    **

    Written after the procedural vote and before the final vote:

    In his WSJ op-ed, Judge Kavanaugh says, “I Said a Few Things I Should Not Have Said”. Is someone who at a crucial point under oath addressing the Senate Judiciary Committee, by his own admission said things, acutely partisan, visibly furious things he should not have said, is someone to be relied upon to avoid doing the same on the Supreme bench on issues of inflamed political passions and high consequences?

    Threeness games — some back-up materials

    Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — ternary logic is of special import because it upsets binary oppositional thinking ]
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    In a recent comment, I said that to connect with my various posts on three-player games, there’s this from an episode of Designated Survivor:

    transnational three-way spy trade

    For the record, that’s a win-win-win strategy.

    **

    While we’re on the subject of threeness games, there’s Brett Kavanaugh‘s explanation of Devil’s Triangle as a drinking game in his testimony:

    Sen Whitehouse: Devil’s Triangle?
    Judge Kavanaugh: Drinking game.
    Sen Whitehouse: How’s it played?
    Judge Kavanaugh: Three glasses, in a triangle..
    Sen Whitehouse: And?
    Judge Kavanaugh: You ever play Quarters?
    Sen Whitehouse: No.
    Judge Kavanaugh: It’s a Quarters game.

    Here’s a more conventional explanation:

    A “Devil’s Triangle” is a widely used term for an act of sexual congress between two men and a woman; but during his hearing, Brett Kavanaugh nonsensically insisted that this was some sort of drinking game.

    Okay, these matters are interesting not because they deal with threeness as in friend or foe games in which temporary alliances (twos) can overcome single ones while new alliances can switch losers for winners — nor as in Konrad Lorenz‘s goose pecking order example, where a > b > c > a — but simply because threeness is involved — three players, three cups &c.

    **

    For good measure, from MIT Tech Review, The first “social network” of brains lets three people transmit thoughts to each other’s heads:

    In recent years, physicists and neuroscientists have developed an armory of tools that can sense certain kinds of thoughts and transmit information about them into other brains. That has made brain-to-brain communication a reality.

    These tools include electroencephalograms (EEGs) that record electrical activity in the brain and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which can transmit information into the brain.

    That — apart from the brains themselves — is the basic tech involved.

    In 2015, Andrea Stocco and his colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle used this gear to connect two people via a brain-to-brain interface. The people then played a 20 questions–type game.

    An obvious next step is to allow several people to join such a conversation, and today Stocco and his colleagues announced they have achieved this using a world-first brain-to-brain network. The network, which they call BrainNet, allows a small group to play a collaborative Tetris-like game.

    That’s the gaming.

    And here’s the pretty diagram that allows those like myself who have only the haziest of ideas where or what the occipital cortex is to nod sagely, acknowledging that we learn something new every day..

    **

    One isn’t, I’ve argued, even a number: one is one and all alone, and ever more shall be so. Two is the first number, standing as it does both for binary systems (duel and duet, competition and collaboration) and for many or all, as in the one and the many, or one and all..

    But three — ah, three is the first differentiated number, neither two nor two plus two (aka two multiplied by two, two to its own power, two squared, four).. It stands in its own right: three.

    In the number series, it offers us our first hint that there are shades of grey possible between none and one, yes and no, day and night, black and white..

    Three is the tie-breaker, the umpire, balance, justice — three is the liminal number par excellence.

    **

    And one last scrap of detail:

    The proof-of-principle network connects three people: two senders and one person able to receive and transmit, all in separate rooms and unable to communicate conventionally. The group together has to solve a Tetris-like game in which a falling block has to be rotated so that it fits into a space at the bottom of the screen.

    The two senders, wearing EEGs, can both see the full screen. The game is designed so the shape of the descending block fits in the bottom row either if it is rotated by 180 degrees or if it is not rotated. The senders have to decide which and broadcast the information to the third member of the group.

    This is all a bit primitive thus far, but then it’s also a beginning — a window on vast possibilities.

    **

  • Zenpundit, Numbers by the numbers: three / pt 1,
  • Zenpundit, Spectacularly non-obvious, I: Elkus on strategy & games
  • Zenpundit, Spectacularly non-obvious, 2: threeness games
  • Zenpundit, Spectacular illustration of a game of three

  • & no doubt, more..
  • Three — watch out for it, in Hegel, in CS Peirce, in George Boole, in Clausewitz, everywhere!

    Extended chess and baseball metaphors

    Sunday, September 9th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a light-hearted look at Trump Chess, and an umpire explains millisecond decision-making ]
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    The first of two pieces I’ll explore here is from the New Yorke, Rules for Trump Chess by Andrew Paul. It’s a humor piece, but not without its satirical effect, as you can tell from Rule #1:.

    Each turn is referred to as a “news cycle.”

    At times, the hunmor gets a bit sour, as with Rule #4:

    A handful of new pieces will be introduced during game play, scattered haphazardly across the board. They include: two overcooked macaroni noodles (Kushners), a shrivelled white raisin with lint on it (Sessions), and a washcloth soaked in warm Johnnie Walker (Bannon). Their permitted moves are unclear, but every news cycle, players must select one to put in their mouths until they gag.

    Links to an earlier (and more balanced) form of chess are not entirely absent, as exemplified by Rule #11:

    Knights still move in that ridiculous two-squares-up, one-square-over path. They think they are being very clever. Their creepy horse faces must always be turned to face the king.

    You can read the rest at the New Yorker site

    **

    Of deeper interest, though with less immediate application to politics, is Jim Evans‘ WaPo piece, Sorry, judges, we umpires do more than call balls and strikes. Here’s the setup:

    I don’t remember when I first heard the popular analogy comparing judges to umpires calling balls and strikes, but recently it’s been everywhere. When Brett Kavanaugh was first nominated to the Supreme Court, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council called him “a constitutionalist — someone who will call balls and strikes.” This past week, as Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings began, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) described him as “somebody who calls balls and strikes and doesn’t come up with his own strike zone.” Supposedly a judge is, and should be, as mechanical as an ump.

    Mechanical, eh?

    It’s true that there are similarities. Umpires have always been considered authority figures, like judges. Both are subject to a lot of scrutiny, and we do what we think is right by rule and tradition. Umpiring is a special calling and a learned skill that requires extraordinary mental toughness. When you put on your uniform, you are supposed to leave all your subjective feelings in that dressing room. Personal integrity and respect for the game are at stake.

    I’ve seen similar said about judges when they put on their robes.. But even the simple “calling balls and strikes” level of analogy lacks subtlety:

    Seeing the televised rectangle that allegedly represents the strike zone, you might surmise that any 3-year-old should be able to tell whether that little white sphere is in or out of that box. Replay has reinforced the feeling that it’s simple and obvious.

    Yet there are many intangibles when it comes to calling balls and strikes. What the umpire’s actually doing is gauging a baseball’s relative position as it travels 95 miles an hour into a three-dimensional area. You’re judging a pitch as it leaves the pitcher’s hand and goes to the catcher’s mitt in less than half a second.

    Getting into greater finesse:

    For example, the rule book states that a runner must avoid a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball. If you collided with a shortstop who was bent over in the act of fielding a ground ball, you would be guilty of interference. But if the shortstop had completed the act of fielding and was attempting to tag you when the collision occurred, there would be no penalty. Among elite athletes, this all happens in milliseconds, and to the untrained eye, the plays look the same — both violent collisions with the ball on the ground. This requires an interpretation of when one act ended and another began, and whose rights are in effect. This is a judgment call.

    Interesting final sentence, that.

    Okay, it would be neat if an appellate or superior court judge could write a similar piece on the niceties of judicial judgment..

    **

    Umpires and referees..

    I’ve always tended to think of umpires as the cricket equivalents of referees, and referees as the soccer equivalents of umpires, but what do I know?

    Chair Umpire Carlos Ramos arguably interfered in the match, bringing both repeated champion Serena Williams and first-time winner Naomi Osaka to tears.

    Match Referee Brian Earley holds his fists in, exemplifying both the passion and restraint in play in the US Open final

    In the Serena Williams objection to penalties allotted her during the second set of her finals match with Japan’s young winner Naomi Osaka, I’ve learned today that in tennis, the umpire, usually seated in a high chair at center court makes unassailable rulings of fact, while the referee can overrule him in matters of tennis law — effectively making the umpire analogous to the jury, and the referee to the judge, in a trial by jury.

    And thus the analogical web widens..

    A DoubleQuote-ish Strzok and Kavanaugh parallelism?

    Thursday, July 12th, 2018

    [ By Charles Cameron — if the parallelism I see isn’t a mirage, it would seem highly relevant to both men and related issues ]
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    Peter Strzok and Brett Kavanaugh:

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    I’ll try to keep this brief, and won’t use my usual DoubleQuotes graphical formalism, which would be costly in both time and space.

    Here we go:

    It strikes me that there’s a parallelism between the issues swirling around the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, Judge of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to the Supreme Court, and those concerning FBI agent Peter Strzok, formerly Chief of the FBI’s Counterespionage Section in the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees joint hearing today..

    The parallelism can best be expressed in ternms of a question: can a professional in the field of justice holding strong political opinions credibaly claim to remain unbiased when in professional pursuit of justice?

    In the case of Agent Strzok, Democrats would very much prefer the answer to be Yes, while Republicans would like the answer to be an incredulous No — while presumably in the case of Judge Kavanaugh, Democrats would tend to the incredulous No side, while Republicans would prefer a resounding Yes. No doubt there are more subtleties here, but I’m no lawyer and this is the best I can manage.

    That quibble aside, the two situations apparently fall into different silos, and I haven’t seen anyone bringing the two situations together in the hope that one would illuminate the other.

    Have I simply missed the relevant materials, or does no one else wish to admit the parallelism? It seems to me that most of what I see is partisanship without much principle.

    **

    Your comments, refinements and refutations are warmly encouraged.

    A call for wisdom, White House edition

    Saturday, November 25th, 2017

    [ by Charless Cameron — frankly, waiting for a return to wisdom, or at least something closer to it ]
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    In the White House there’s an inscription over the mantel of the State Dining Room which reads:

    I Pray Heaven To Bestow The Best Of Blessings On This House And All that shall hereafter Inhabit it. May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof.

    That’s from our first president, John Adams, in his letter to his wife, Abigail, but it resonates down to our day.

    How do we recognize wisdom?

    I don’t believe we can legislate that only the honest and wise can attain the presidency, though we might do well to have Robert Bolt‘s Thomas More in A Man for all Seasons at the head of the Justice department — Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England who famously said, answering Roper who said he’d cut down all the laws to offer the Devil no protection:

    Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

    **

    Thomas More was, no doubt a man with his own flaws, and the flaws of his times. Flaws, okay.

    Where is a true sense of justice? Of honor? Of integrity? Where is a man for all seasons?


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