Friday, April 30, 2010

Grr, Dan Savage

Well-known transphobic and general jerkass Dan Savage is also a pit bull hater and kind of stupid about it. On his blog, he asks...

""An Aurora man has been charged with battery after attacking his sister with a pit bull, according to Aurora police. Rey Jaquez, 50, of the 1000 block of East New York Street, was charged with two counts of domestic battery on Monday after he threw the pit bull at his sister and the dog bit her, police said.

A question for pit bull apologists: we hear you, we hear you. There are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners, and perhaps it's unfair to take a dim view of an entire breed when it's actually a particular breed of humans who are to blame for all those maladjusted, poorly socialized, violent pit bulls making the news. But how are we supposed to tell the difference? When a pit, perhaps unleashed, is trotting towards us, how are we supposed to determine that this particular pit has a good owner? Do we guess? Cross our fingers—while they're still attached—and hope for the best? Or, considering the potential consequences if we guess wrong, do we presume all pit bulls have bad owners for the exact same reasons we presume all guns are loaded?""

First of all, if a pitbull is being THROWN AT YOU per the article that sparked this question, it's probably safe to say that the dog will be scared and frustrated and angry when it falls to earth, any kind of dog would be. Savage ironically titles his article "it's not the dog, it's the owner" as if he doesn't think having an owner who throws dogs across the room would contribute at all to one of those dogs at some point biting somebody.

As for meeting a strange dog on the street, if the dog is standing rigid, barking at you, crouching and bearing her teeth, or growling and coming out you with her head near the ground, that dog is about to make trouble. In that instance, you should stand still, speak softly and always remain facing the dog. If you've done nothing to antagonize the dog, in theory you should be fine.

I should mention that meeting strange dogs on the street is not something you should try to do. For a dog to be roaming around leashless with no obvious owner is a bad sign. A much worse sign, actually, than a dog having been born a pit bull.

Criminal Justice *headdesk* of the day. Like a golden retriever can attack someone and never have to worry that her breed will be banned, cops can usually drive drunk and know that the other cops and paramedics will cover for them, even when they kill people.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I did warn y'all about President Morales doing stuff like this...

Remember way back when UUism was down by less than 100 people and Morales made a big, election-friendly fuss about how we were way down without actually mentioning that the drop was so small as to be statistically insignificant? And when somebody asked the candidates what mistakes they had made and Hallman candidly answered about problems with Pathways, while Morales said something politician-y about how hard it is to schedule a church service when his church had SO MANY MEMBERS?

I wrote then "I don't believe him. I don't want a marketer, I want a minister."

Recent stuff the UUA under Morales has been up to includes slashing the Commission on Appraisal's Budget, according to President Morales, "as a way of initiating a conversation about the committee." Cutting the UUA Washington office is supposed to improve advocacy for reasons no one can explain. Merging a couple of our social witness departments and giving them less money is supposed to improve things.

Of those three issues, the Commission on Appraisal bothers me the most. I think of it as UUism's R&D and I appreciate having a committee to look at potential issues within the UUA and make recommendations. It is supposed to be independent, which Morales paints as "lacking in accountability." Source.

He made a lot of pretty statements on the campaign trail about raising membership. I'm not holding him to those. I am asking when he's going to quit insulting everybody's intelligence with all this marketing blather and just talk to us like we're reasonable people.

who also thinks this is a really stupid time to be shifting duties from volunteers to paid staff in the name of "Policy Governance," but that's another post.

If the GA votes something in, can the UUA just get rid of it?

I've been trying to figure out how to write about this for a bit and properly phrase my dislike for what has gone on, but for whatever reason, the words aren't coming.

So I will try asking about it. My impression is that the facts of the situation are as follows:

1. A vote of GA created the "Office of Gay and Lesbian Concerns"

2. At some point the UUA added "bisexual" and "transsexual" to the name and altered the mission to include them. Well, theoretically.

3. Recently, the UUA "merged" the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concerns in with another advocacy group at significantly reduced funding.

As far as step two goes, I'm OK with that. But is the UUA allowed to do step three? I mean, if a GA vote created something, can the UUA just get rid of it.

Polity-wise, it just seems fishy.

who asked about the on the UUA mailing list a few weeks ago and nobody else was bothered, but has remained bothered herself.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Update on last week's *headdesk*

For the first time last week, I did a legal *headdesk* rather than a criminal justice one. Clearly I shouldn't do that because unlike the elegant simplicity of the standard "Cops raid the wrong house and kill somone's dogs, police chief says they did everything right" criminal justice *headdesk*, the Clay Greene lawsuit is getting complicated.

Basically the elderly gay man who claimed he was forcibly separated from his elderly lover is being accused of domestic violence by the county that did the separating. the trial is coming up in the case this summer and it should be an interesting elder law case no matter what. I still don't see what right the county had to take Greene's stuff, even if he was abusing his partner, which certianly hasn't been proved. It seems to be that the county treated them as married for the purpose of taking Greene's possessions along with his boyfriend's, then refused to treat them as married for the purposes of allowing hospital visits, etc.

We will see.


Comcast: Worst Company in America

After several years of coming in second Comcast has finally won the's "Worst Company in America" contest.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of folks.

Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day: Story about cops who just HATE being videotaped ends with the story of a police officer who committed suicide after a videotaped incident hit youtube. The officer left a note saying he was just trying to "protect his men." However in that incident he was "protecting" them from a naked guy trapped on a fire escape and "protected" them by having the naked guy tasered until he fell off the building.

Ok, special bonus *headdesk* about WHY the cops hate to be videotaped. Because when they lie in their police reports about what happend, or in this case make up the circumstances of the arrest completely, they get caught.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It is "blog on the Paycheck Fairness Act Day."

So I will celebrate by doing so. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a good thing. It would allow women who are discriminated against under the Equal Pay Act to get punitive damages. This is a good thing, IMHO, since it sometimes seems like punitive damages are the only thing that corporations will listen to. Further, it makes it illegal to fire somebody for discussing their salary.

It's a pretty modest expansion of the law, and in directions that I think are reasonable.

It has already passed in the house. If you'd like to bother your senator about it, here's a canned letter that looks pretty good, or you can just contact your senator directly, which is usually more effective.


Church reviews

I am still working on my paper and was googling for information on my local megachurch to see if I could figure out if it was doing commerce of $500,000 per year for Equal Pay Act purposes.

Anyway, I stumbled on to the fact that people are reviewing that church on Google. There are reviewers who sound like the usual crackpots, actual discussions of scripture being taken out of context, and, of course, people who are very happy there. That particular church is a pretty polarizing place in my community, so it doesn't surprise me that they would attract both positive and negative attention, but wow.


Followup question on discrimination law as applied to ministerial employment

(Again, this question is also on Facebook and I am reading answers and responding both places.)

Listed below are some religiously-related jobs. Who is a minister for the purposes of your views on yesterday's discrimination question?

Jobs within a church

Senior Minister

Associate Minister

Director of Communications


Church Custodian

Director of Music


Children's Ministry Director

Director of Religious Education

Church Secretary

Church office Manager

Nursery School attendent

Seminarian working as an intern

Religious Jobs Outside of Churches

Teacher at a Religious school

Principal of a religious school

Theology teacher at a religious school

Chaplain at a hospital or nursing home

Kosher Supervisor at a hospital or nursing home (required under Jewish law to be a rabbi)

(Again, there's no right answer, even less of one than with the first question as the courts are wildly inconsistent between circuits on some of the grayer areas)

Today's *headdesk* is a legal one rather than a criminal justice one, unless you consider what the state and nursing home did theft and/or false imprisonment.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Should a fired/not-hired minister be able to sue a church for discrimination?

Please answer this poll, preferably at length, in the comments.

A. No, because who would be a good minister is entirely the church's decision and the courts and/or the government should have no say in how churches are run. Freedom of religion means that churches have a certain amount of autonomy under the constitution and if the courts/government have a say in the selection of church leaders, then the autonomy can be unduly influenced.

B. In a limited sense. If a church has a normally illegal distinction as part of its doctrine/tradition, then that part should be exempted, but nothing else should. (E.g. A Catholic church can refuse to hire Alice as a priest because Catholic doctrine/tradition requires that priests be male. But they cannot refuse to hire Father Bob because he is old* since Catholic doctrine doesn't really have anything requiring priests to be young.)

C. Yes, the cause of anti-discrimination is a very important one and demanding that churches follow the same hiring rules as any other organization only makes sense and doesn't burden religion significantly, besides, giving church organizations freedom to discriminate is not part of freedom of religion.

D. One of the above, but for another reason.

I should emphasize that this is not a law quiz. The law does currently take one of the views above and I lean toward another one, but some very bright people have argued the third view. Anyway, I'm just trying to find out what some layfolk and ministers think about this issue.

today's criminal justice *headdesk* of the day is pretty mild, but still...

EDIT: Currently the law does recognize a ministerial exemption from all discrimination laws, and even the Equal Pay Act, so the courts take position A. A lot of churches use that to get away with some nasty things, so I am trying to figure out a just way to argue for position B. Position C is that of some legal scholars I have read.

*They can, of course, refuse to hire him for any number of other reasons.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I think this is my favorite paragraph I've ever written in a law school paper

As the above-cited examples indicate, the idea that knowing that an employment action will have a negative impact on a group of people sharing a trait and taking that action anyway equates a intent is not one the Supreme Court had expressed before this. This new definition of "intent" as applied to disparate impact could serve to revolutionize disparate impact law should it be widely held as part of the holding of Ricci. That said, this point was ignored entirely by the media in the wake of Ricci and has not appeared in any law review article or other secondary source currently available on Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw, so it does not appear to be the prevailing view of the upshot of Kennedy’s choice of wording.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chalicechick's theory on Elena Kagan

Solicitor General Kagan gets a lot of grief for being too conservative for Obama to pick her. I don't think she necessarily is, it is just that she has been running for the job of "Supreme Court Justice" for a really long time. As a potential Supreme Court Justice, she's not talking about her opinions on anything.

Except now she's the Solicitor General, and she has to talk about that. The Obama administration has adopted the Bush/Cheney theory of executive power, and Kagan has been repeatedly asked to defend that and has done so. But my guess is that her actual views, if not those on executive power on other things, are probably a lot more liberal than she gets credit for.

who would love to see Leah Ward Sears, would be quite happy with Diane Wood, but doesn't think Kagan is a bad third choice.

Awesome, awesome passive-aggressive library signs

Love them all

who is having a stressful law day and likely isn't good for anything else.

Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day, the third one to feature Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Don't miss the first six words of the third paragraph.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Law thing I'm chewing on today...

Senator Leahy: Is there a constitutional right to privacy?

(Then)Judge Ginsburg: There is a constitutional right to privacy which consists I think of at least two distinguishable parts. One is the privacy expressed most vividly in the Fourth Amendment, that is, the government shall not break in to my home or office without a warrant based on probable cause; the government shall leave me alone.

The other is the notion of personal autonomy; the government shall not make my decisions for me; I shall make, as an individual, uninhibited, uncontrolled by my government, the decisions that affect my life's course. Yes, I think whether it has been lumped under the label, privacy is a constitutional right, and it has those two elements, the right to be let alone and the right to make basic decisions about one's life course.

-Justice Ginsburg's Confirmation hearings

I am with her on the first right. On the second right, I am conflicted. In the sense that "privacy" is used in an abortion law context to mean, essentially, the right to make your own decisions about your own private affairs, I'm with her. But were we to take "privacy" by what I see as its usual meaning, the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively, I think we can get there through the common law given that Griswold v. Connecticut* more or less set the stage for it, but I'm not sure the right is constitutional exactly.



* Holding that bans on birth control to married people were illegal because of a constitutional right to privacy.

Pulitzer Prizes

I frequently disagree with the stories that are chosen to win Pulitzer Prizes*, but I really can't argue with one recent selection.

I read Gene Weingarten's Fatal Distraction when it first came out and I found it heartbreaking then. I still do.

That link is very sad and might not be for you. But it is a brilliant bit of reporting.

Pulitzer-themed criminal justice *headdesk* of the day.

* My feminism and my fairly libertarian outlook are internally arguing over the prize going to Kathleen Parker. Will let you know who wins.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The last acceptable target

One line of argument that really bugs me is when people say that a group in question is the "last acceptable target" for jokes. Most recently, someone claimed that poor white people were the last acceptable targets. I provided some alternate targets, and those targets "weren't the same" for reasons relating to Jeff Foxworthy's success in the mid nineties* and unrelated to his obscurity since.

One wonders if, in an ideal world, one would even have acceptable targets. As far as targets relating to race and culture go, we ideally probably shouldn't. At the same time, I don't particularly have a problem with having some cultural standards, though at times that leads us to cut some pretty fine distinctions. (I was telling theCSO yesterday that I don't judge "Bombshell" McGee because she dresses skankily, I judge her because she ACTS skankily, and yes, I judge Jesse James for the same thing.)

Anyway, has made my day by compiling a list of acceptable targets of various varieties. Some of them might not be acceptable among your friends, but the site generally provides enough examples that I'm persuaded that people meeting that description are to some degree targeted. Also, there are plenty of groups (people with dwarfism come to mind) that my friends wouldn't tolerate snark about, but that I totally see are comically fetishized by the larger culture.

Acceptable Cultural Targets

Acceptable Ethnic Targets

Acceptable Hard Luck Targets

Acceptable Inevitable Targets

Acceptable Lifestyle Targets

Acceptable Hobby Targets

Acceptable Nationality Targets

Acceptable political targets

Acceptable Professional Targets

Acceptable Religious Targets

Acceptable Sexual Targets

I suspect that each of those lists contain at least one group I think my circle of friends would find it acceptable to make fun of and one group that I wouldn't. (E.g. I think I can safely say that for most of the people I hang out with, making jokes about Mexicans is not acceptable, making jokes about Canadians is. Similarly, making jokes about transsexuals is not ok, making jokes about furries is. Making fun of Mormons, not cool, making fun of scientologists, ok.) One could argue that part of the difference is that different sorts of jokes are made about Canadians and Mexicans, given that Canadians are usually mocked for their politeness in a way that half comes off as the joke-teller mocking America by implication. That distinction breaks down with the second example, though.

Anyway, no one group should ever consider itself the "last acceptable target."


*Any kid who grew up about when I did knows that about the time Jeff Foxworthy became famous for insulting poor whites, the least cool rich black guy of them all, Carlton Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, was going off the air. Many people who were teenagers of the early 1990s can still rap the theme song. Some sociology student has quite the dissertation topic right there.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

By request, oddly enough: Chalicechick's opinion on McDonald v. City of Chicago

(If you've ever wondered how my law school writing differs from my blog, this post is a fair mix of the two. Ok, my capitalization is usually at least somewhat more consistent in my formal writing.)

McDonald v. City of Chicago background

(Oh, and "incorporation" means taking something that the constitution says the federal government can't do and making so the states can't do it either. At this point, just about every right in the bill or rights has been incorporated--except the right to bear arms.)

The general idea here is that the Privileges and Immunities clause of the 14th Amendment was intended to include all of the rights of being an American, and one of those rights per the bill of rights is the right to bear arms. I'm not an originalist by nature-- and Due Process incorporation is a method that is far more consistent with precedent given that the court has for decades used the Due Process clause to do what the Privileges and Immunities clause was probably designed to do. That said, the Due Process method doesn't actually make as much sense, so I tend to favor a privileges and immunities clause interpretation that will effectively incorporate the right to bear arms. I tend to think both methods allow for it.

Academics widely agree that the Slaughterhouse cases, which gutted the privileges and immunities clause in the first place, were poorly decided. Further, the vague nature of some of the Due Process clause's language actually makes it a pretty poor choice for handing out rights.* Putting aside my reticence about supplanting 100 years of jurisprudence with a single case, I want to note that reviving the privileges and immunities clause allows for applications of it that a liberal court might find quite palatable, such as the right to education or even the right to health care. If we're going to muck with precedent, there's no sense in not going at it whole hog, after all.

Though I tend to agree with the argument that the original intention of the right to bear arms was militias and thus some restrictions on gun ownership are appropriate, the idea that the states are allowed to experiment on, effectively, just one of the Bill of Rights while pretty much every other one has been incorporated at this point seems inappropriate to me no matter how many scary stories of gun violence are trotted out.** I would no more vote for restrictions on free speech to be a matter for the states.


*What is 'arbitrary' is often decided, well, arbitrarily, and the word “liberty” was twisted in two entirely different directions in Roe v. Wade.

**I would favor removing the right to bear arms from the constitution entirely before I would favor not extending an existing constitutional restriction to state law . I don't favor either at the moment.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance of the Day

Imagine what you think Rush Limbaugh's house looks like.

Now look at the reality.

Your mind, it is blown, yes?


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Best McMansion Grafitti Evah

"I am Gigantor and I hate yards and trees"