Monthly Archives: January 2013

Final Decision Goes Against Coppedge

The Coppedge v. CalTech and JPL case is done, with a final decision handed down by Judge Hiroshige on Wednesday that confirms his preliminary ruling in favor of JPL. There are news reports here and here about the end of the case. Coppedge had sued, claiming wrongful termination, saying that JPL fired him from his job as a systems administrator because of his religious views. JPL defended itself by bringing to light Coppedge’s personality quirks and also his refusal to get up to speed on the new systems technology that JPL was switching over to. Coppedge was one of about 200 people laid off in a downsizing operation there.

Coppedge’s attorney isn’t letting the press opportunity get away. From the Star News article:

“David was the victim of religious discrimination because a handful of malicious co-workers hated his Christian views, as well as his interest in intelligent design, which they ignorantly perceived to be a religious concept,” Coppedge’s attorney William Becker said in a statement Thursday. “He was demoted and fired for simply being a Christian and someone who believes that nature can be scientifically explained by reference to designs found within it.”

We know that IDC advocates have to deny IDC’s religious character, but that doesn’t make people ignorant for not buying into the deception.

From the La Canada Online article:

Becker — who declined to comment beyond his written statement — contended that by “rubber-stamping” JPL’s proposed judgment, and not issuing a thorough written ruling of his own, it would work in Coppedge’s favor going forward.

“By failing to address the evidence personally, thoughtfully and carefully, [Hiroshige] left the door wide open,” said Becker. “By overruling our objections without giving a reason, the judge has all but handed us a victory on appeal.”

There is a cottage industry of lawyers looking to make their reputation in defending the religious right, and there is some pretty fierce competition for recognition. Becker appears to be participating in that game. As I understand it (and I am not a lawyer), the appeals court will have to take the case with all the findings of fact as they stand; their only review power concerns procedure and findings in law. Contrary to Becker’s statement, it is not clear at all that an appeals court will simply have to overturn the decision. Becker heads into the appeal with the facts as determined by the trial court being that JPL established cause for dismissal of Coppedge and appropriately answered claims of religious discrimination. That puts him behind the eight ball. The appeals court would have to agree that at least one of Becker’s arguments was cogent and revealed an actual difficulty in law rising to reversible error. This, it seems to me, is far from the high probability that Becker assigns to it.

A New Year

The Mayan apocalypse failed to appear, so I had a nice New Year’s day here in Florida. The temperature got into the 70s here, and not too breezy, so Diane and I worked on various things that all too recently would have been too hot to do comfortably. But here in the evening, I’m reflecting a bit over what has gone by, and thinking about things to be accomplished in the coming year.

One of the major items in the works is finishing off a document for a plan of action in handling TalkOrigins Archive web sites. The success of the Panda’s Thumb has for some time made it the main point of interest, but there has been discussion about a major overhaul of the TalkOrigins web site itself. I’m putting this together via a Google Docs document. The document discusses a collection of web applications for future TalkOrigins Archive holdings. The Panda’s Thumb weblog serves as a front-lines resource with its usual interactivity. The current static HTML TalkOrigins Archive should be preserved so as not to break web resources with links to those materials. But those materials and more will be made available in a content management system. Developing new materials for the CMS will be part of the job for a Wiki. There is also the idea that a full-blown forum package could handle free-form discussions for those without good access to Usenet newsgroups. The critical component in all this, though, is setting up an effective volunteer organization. And that’s the part of the document that I am working on putting together now. When complete, we’ll be having a full call for volunteers. (If you would like to become a volunteer for the TalkOrigins Archive now, please leave a comment indicating your interest and skill set.)

I’m still looking to move ahead with various academic publications that have been in process for quite some time. One thing I was doing today was looking through files, which reminds me of just how much of a backlog there is. I did run across my script for my 2002 presentation at the World Skeptic’s Conference, which reminds me of another activity that I’ve deferred: putting my various presentations in video format and putting them online.

And the science education situation in Florida looks like it may get even more interesting in the future. Our new state education commissioner, Tony Bennett, was touted as a featured speaker for a “Creation Evidence Expo” in 2009, then cancelled when it made the news.

There’s the whole issue of data center consolidation for Florida’s state agencies, a process that is supposed to be complete within the next six years or so. The legislative mandate to do this came down some time ago, but it seems to me that the legislature was not properly informed of the downside of data center consolidation: you may save money on personnel, but a frighteningly large proportion of such projects fail outright. Failure of data systems for state agencies is a pretty bad potential downside to have. There are other issues with the implementation of the data centers. The state is aiming to put everything into two data centers, both of them physically located in the state capitol, Tallahassee. That makes it convenient for the state administration, certainly, but anyone who has looked at data bandwidth in high-speed Internet systems would notice that Tallahassee is not in the path of main trunk lines. Data flow, and low latency, is a critical part of client/server and n-tier architectures, and putting the central data repositories at the end of a thin pipe seems an odd choice. Part of the benefit of having multiple data centers is backup and failover capability; these, though, are rather less effective the closer the places are physically. Power outages are more likely to take down both centers when they are in the same geographic locale, and disasters are more likely to effect both, too. Having a data center in Tallahassee makes sense, but having the premier data center elsewhere (somewhere with much better bandwidth access, for one) would make much more sense. There’s lots more to talk about on this topic, and I hope to do some of that later.