Sunday, June 14, 2020

The wheels of justice grind slow but fine for SDM

        This blog last noted the antics of Sean David Morton on 19th October last year, shortly after the braggart filed an INFORMAL APPEAL RESPONSE TO GOVERNMENT BRIEF from his Texas jail cell. I noted at that time that, of the half-dozen or so points he cited on appeal, denial of counsel without a Faretta hearing was probably his best point.

        Twelve days ago, 2nd June, the Ninth Circuit finally handed down its judgement—thumbs decidedly DOWN on every single point in the appeal. On Faretta, the justices wrote:
« A district court is not required to follow a particular script in the course of a Faretta colloquy, but it “must insure that [the defendant] understands 1) the nature of the charges against him, 2) the possible penalties, and 3) the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation.”  Here, the record indicates that Morton was fully informed about the charges and possible penalties he faced. Morton’s suggestion that the court was required to say more about the elements of each charge, and the government’s burden of proof, is unavailing. See Lopez v. Thompson, 202 F.3d 1110, 1119 (9th Cir. 2000) (“In assessing waiver of counsel, the trial judge is required to focus on the defendant’s understanding of the importance of counsel, not the defendant’s understanding of the substantive law or the procedural details.”); United States v. Robinson, 913 F.2d 712, 715 (9th Cir. 1990) (“[P]erfect comprehension of each element of a criminal charge does not appear to be necessary to a finding of a knowing and intelligent waiver.”). Moreover, the district court warned Morton that it would be “foolish” to proceed without counsel given the complexity of his case, the difficulty he was likely to have observing the Federal Rules of Evidence and presenting his defense, and the experience and skill required to perform effectively at trial.
Morton confirmed that he understood the court’s warning, but nevertheless wished to represent himself at trial. On this record, we conclude that the district court’s Faretta inquiry was constitutionally sufficient and that Morton knowingly, intelligently, and unequivocally waived his right to counsel. See Erskine, 355 F.3d at 1169 (waiver is valid when the record indicates that defendant “knew what he was doing, and his decision was made with eyes open.”) Similarly, the district court did not err by denying as untimely Morton’s motion for appointment of counsel at sentencing. Although “a defendant who has waived his right to counsel may nonetheless re-assert that right for the purposes of a sentencing proceeding,” Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1059 (9th Cir. 2004), there are “times when the criminal justice system would be poorly served by allowing the defendant to reverse his course at the last minute and insist upon representation by counsel,”  This request was one of those times. Morton did not make his request for counsel until the end of the sentencing hearing, and after the court had heard extensive argument from both parties. His request came just as the court was prepared to announce its sentence. Under these circumstances, we conclude that the district court correctly rejected as untimely Morton’s request for appointment of counsel.»
        The court shot down all Morton's other points of appeal with equal thoroughness, coming down particularly hard on the allegation that the justice system was "out to get" Morton because of his writings and reputation.

        So this arrogant and self-promoting villain, who has said all along that his skill at legal matters would surely defeat the charges against him, is now humiliated and forced to serve out his sentence. He should be in the can until September 2023, unless he's been on good behavior (which is hard to imagine considering his belligerence.)

        Suck it up, Morton. You're a criminal, a con-man and a liar.

Thanks to AE, this blog's legal eagle

Monday, June 1, 2020

James McCanney tells it like it isn't

        James McCanney is the electric comet guy, the Planet X guy and one of the foremost of the Apollo deniers. Phil Plait has done a good job explaining how wrong McCanney is on most topics in astronomy. So has Stuart Robbins, here.  One that "Bad Astronomy" didn't catch (Stuart Robbins did, here)  is his statement that Venus is tidally locked to Earth. It isn't true (The synodic period of Venus is 583.92 days, and its rotational period is 224.701 Earth days retrograde) but the Earth-Venus system does have the unusual property that Venus shows almost exactly the same face to us at successive closest approaches.note 1. So probably McCanney once heard the above true statement and misinterpreted it to mean the UNtrue statement that Venus always shows us the same face.

        McCanney is a recurrent guest on Coast to Coast AM, although his appearance a week ago (26th May) ended a 7-year drought. C2C likes to promote him as a Professor of Mathematics and Physics from Cornell, although he hasn't taught at Cornell since the 80s.

        For many years McCanney was warning "Planet X is coming!!" He cited the observations of Tom Van Flandern and Robert Harrington, who declared in 1989 that they had spotted an incoming planet four times the mass of Earth, visible only from the Southern hemisphere. Now, explaining why Planet X still hasn't arrived, McCanney says it turned into the Hale-Bopp comet, discovered in 1995. Moreover, he said, there was good evidence of intelligent signalling from Planet X. Well, that's awfully wrong. Planets do not turn into comets,note 2 and if there had been good evidence of signalling, it would have been front-page news.note 3

        Conscious, perhaps, that McCanney's statements were at gross variance with conventional astronomy, George Noory asked "Why is NASA afraid to admit these things?" This was McCanney's answer:
"I can't answer your question but I can tell you it's a top-down thing, and the people at NASA are under strict gag orders. People from NASA can't just walk up to the microphone and say something. It goes through an official release, OKed by people like [?] Tony Phillipsnote 4, people like that."
        I've interacted quite a bit with NASA scientists in my career, and I've never come across one who was gagged or even felt as though they were.note 5

Power and water from the air
        McCanney has a pending patent on a wind generator that not only generates local electric power but also extracts water from the atmosphere.

        The generator is now being installed in units from 2 to 250 kW, and McCanney (rather optimistically, I think) asserts that one day it will entirely replace nuclear and fossil fuel energy sources.

        On Coast to Coast AM he proudly said that the WING generator had won the 2018 Water Abundance X Prize, $1,500,000 . That's not actually true—the winners were The Skysource/Skywater Alliance, but McCanney's generator was awarded a $150,000 second-place consolation prize.

====================/ \===================
[1]  The interval between successive close approaches of Venus to Earth is equal to 5.001444 Venusian solar days. So at each  closest approach we see just half a degree more on Venus's West edge, and half a degree less on the East, than at the last closest approach (at the equator that works out to about 53 km). An astronomer would have to live for 2,219 years to see a full rotation of Venus at closest approach.

ref:  Atmospheric tides and the resonant rotation of VenusIcarus, Nov. 1969, Thomas Gold and Steven Soter.

[2] ...or vice versa. Another of McCanney's errors is the fantasy that Venus was once a comet.

[3] Again, Phil Plait has nailed the Planet X fallacy expertly.

[4] It sounded like "Tony Phillips" but I don't know who he means. No such person is in the list of official NASA spokespersons.

[5] One who I spent a lot of time with during the Viking missions was Chief Scientist Gerry Soffen. What is Gerry most remembered for by writers? He was the first to show the image of  "The Face on Mars". Gagged? I don't think so.