Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Must there always be a book?

This might sound odd coming from a lawyer, but I'm not comfortable with defense attorneys making money off their clients. I am a public defender, after all. I won't even let my clients (or their families) buy me lunch, let alone pay me. I don't see myself ever leaving the world of public defense or legal services or law school clinical work. I just don't want to take money from my clients.

I don't begrudge my colleagues in private practice from earning a living and charging a fair fee for their work. But it makes me angry to see clients forced to sell cars, homes, land, or whatever else they can to pay lawyers who then join country clubs and buy BMWs. Maybe my anger is better directed at the criminal justice system that can ruin a person's life just by being charged with a crime and maybe I'm not being fair but to me, defending people shouldn't be a path to prosperity. (Which is why I always shake my head in anger when I hear people rail against death penalty defense attorneys who are in it for the money.) The real point here is that it's probably a good thing my state has a public defender system and doesn't leave it all to appointed counsel because I would be useless if I did have to run my own firm. One can't survive on appointments alone, but I would never be able to charge my paying clients enough to pay my bills.

That I would represent all my clients for nothing (or next to it) probably shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. I've gone on tears before about how seriously I take this profession and how seriously I despise its practitioners who don't take it seriously. One of my most-read posts ever was my rant about the does-not-deserve-to-be-called-a-defense-attorney-should-be-disbarred jerkface who represented Cameron Todd Willingham at trial. So we know I would never talk publicly about my clients, even long after their cases were over (with the caveat that I might say things that would be beneficial to them, of course).

Something else I would never be able to do? Write and publish a tell-all book about my high profile client. Yes, I'm looking at you, Jose Baez. His 400some page book about the Casey Anthony case will be released next Tuesday. But my judgment is already out in full force. Don't do that, man! Don't try to profit off your client like that. Don't expose your client like that. You have a continuing duty of loyalty and confidentiality. You can't just say whatever you want to now that the case is over. Even if you have her permission, you probably shouldn't. And, frankly, it's pretty darn unbecoming. Unprofessional. Sleazy. It's guys like you who make the rest of us look bad and I don't appreciate it.

I especially love the idea that he's "taking on" his critics who doubt his lawyering skills but instead think he just took this case for the publicity. Not exactly helping your case there, Jose. Writing a book all about your client's case kinda seems like a "me, me, me" thing to do.

Everything I wrote in that earlier rant about Willingham's lawyer still holds true for me. The client is always and forever my top priority. I'm not in my cases to earn a buck or make a name for myself. I'm in them to stand between my client and the mighty power of the state. Representing someone charged with a crime is a big responsibility. An awesome responsibility. It's a responsibility that should be respected, not exploited. Writing a tell-all book like this is exploitation. It's disgusting.* I hope no one buys it.

*a colleague suggested to me that Jose Baez might have an agreement with Casey to get her some of the proceeds, seeing as how being the most hated person in the country probably makes job interviews awkward. I sincerely hope that's the case, but that still wouldn't make this ok in my book. (Pun fully intended. I apologize.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An open letter to my very silly dog

My dear Maddie,

We are now in a stretch of days where triple digit heat will be the norm. It is warm. And while your hair is pretty short right now, you're still covered in it. What with being a dog and all. So you're likely to get hot. There is only so much I can do. I can set the thermostat so that the a/c will run during the heat of the day. And I can set out a large bowl and fill it with water every morning.

But I can't make you drink it. How do I make you understand that the water is always there and you should drink from it whenever you want? Instead of just when I get home and put fresh water in it? Because it's starting to really stress me out to come home at 5:30 and realize that you haven't had any water since 8 am.

Please drink your water. All day. I would actually prefer that you pee in the house than that you get sick from dehydration. Really.

Love, Mom

ps-I'm not saying pee at will or anything...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, June 25, 2012

The hair cut heard 'round the world

Last month, a mother in Utah cut off her daughter's ponytail in open court so the girl could receive a reduced sentence. The daughter's crime had been cutting off the hair of a little girl (whose mother approved this novel approach by the judge).

I first read about this case last week, but refrained from blogging about it right away because I wanted to think about my thoughts. My initial, visceral reaction was that this was a horrible thing for the judge to suggest. And while I am a firm believer in listening to one's gut instincts, I am also a firm believer in not giving in to those initial reactions but instead thinking and reasoning and coming to a better conclusion once the cloud of emotion has passed.

In this case, time and thought have not changed my view that this kind of sentence is inappropriate. Wrong, even. So many of the comments on stories about this case have referred to the concept of eye for an eye, have suggested that this young offender should indeed have done to her as she did to others. Yes, I even saw someone refer to this sentence as the Golden Rule.

But this sentence doesn't follow the Golden Rule. Certainly not the Golden Rule that I learned. The Golden Rule isn't license to treat people as awfully as they have treated you, but rather urges us to treat others the way we would like to be treated. Bullying a kid who has bullied others isn't the way to put an end to bullying. It just turns the rest of us into bullies.

The argument in favor of this hair cutting punishment is in essence the same argument for the death penalty, which you all know I don't agree with. I just can't get behind the idea that we should allow other people's behavior to justify our own. "She did it first so it's ok for me to do it now," shouldn't be a part of anyone's moral code. But a lot of people cite the biblical "eye for an eye" as justification for punishment that is perfectly in line with what the perpetrator did. (Even though Jesus said, "No, don't do that. Turn the other cheek instead." This is why I get a little confused when people insist that the Bible is the source of all morality, 'cause I don't know what to do with those two different verses. But I digress.)

I once attended a baby shower for an 18 year-old prospective mother. It was a depressing afternoon for many reasons, but the stand out incident at this shower was the conversation that followed the mother-to-be's proclamation that the way to teach a child not to hit is to hit that child who has hit someone. Because, see, then the child will know how it feels to be hit and so won't want to do it again. I don't think the adults in the room got through to this girl, so I have since worried about the future of the child. One hopes that a few years of dealing with an actual child has helped her learn some better parenting tools. But when a district court judge thinks it's a good principle to employ at sentencing, I lose some of that hope.

I'm all for judges putting some thought and new ideas into sentencing plans, especially for juveniles. I'm all about trying to reach people who are headed down a bad path and not just pointing them toward a better path but actively starting them on it and helping them stay on it. But putting a mother in the awful position of having to batter* her child in open court to spare her daughter a longer sentence isn't what I have in mind. And it isn't ok. There has to be a better way to teach the bully empathy and compassion without resorting to this knee-jerk idea of "let's bully her and see how she likes it." How about writing a letter of apology? How about doing community service with children who have no hair due to illness or working with some kind of anti-bullying program? Something, anything, other than doing to her the really bad, don't do it again thing that we're punishing her for doing in the first place.

*Batter means to touch someone in a rude, insulting, or offensive way. So, yeah, I'll call cutting off her ponytail rude, insulting, and offensive. I know I wouldn't like it if someone hacked off my hair at the ponytail holder currently in place.

Bad Justice Scalia

I don't know if I've made it clear before, but I am not Justice Scalia's biggest fan. I think he writes with a level of hostility and vitriol unbecoming in a Supreme Court Justice. I think he misuses dissents (and occasionally concurrences or majority opinions) to shred the idiots who dare to disagree with him. I think he has spoken out politically in ways that a member of the bench should not. I think he should not go hunting with the vice president.

His opinion today in the Arizona immigration case just might take the cake, though. Taking pot shots at the President. Referencing his press conferences (what we in the biz call "facts not in evidence"). Directly arguing against the executive branch's choices on enforcement (which is a policy decision entirely within the executive's discretion, and something that every executive on both federal and state levels has done since the beginning of time).

Will someone please explain to this man that he is not a politician? That his disagreement with how the current administration is enforcing immigration policy should not in any way inform his decision in a law suit?

In terms of inappropriate judicial behavior, surely this guy takes the Supreme Court cake.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On Sunday, I saw two articles about what Jerry Sandusky's issues on appeal will be. Mind you, a jury only convicted him yesterday. He hasn't been sentenced yet and a notice of appeal won't even be filed until after that. But already we've got assurances about what issues will be included on the appellate brief that will be filed a year or so from now.

It's time for me to admit something. I'm kind of an appellate snob. I would expect a trial lawyer to pull rank over me because I don't know how to construct a cross-examination or talk to a jury. Just as I always chuckle a little when people, even lawyers, who don't know much about appeals try to tell me what the appellate issues will be. Most people, even lawyers, simply don't have a good grasp of which issues are good appellate issues and which issues no decent appellate attorney would touch with a ten foot poll. There are lots of things to consider, like whether the trial record includes all the necessary information, whether the issue was raised, or raised sufficiently, at the trial level, what standards the appellate court will apply in considering the issues. This is the kind of stuff that people who don't spend their days immersed in appellate nerd land just aren't up on. Which is one reason why I would encourage anyone appealing a conviction to find a different attorney than the trial attorney because you're best served by an attorney who specializes in appeals.

Now today I have seen that Sandusky's outspoken trial attorney will not be handling the appeal (phew, as trial attorneys should never handle the appeals), but his stated reason isn't that he isn't an appeal expert but rather that he will be a witness at the appeal stage.

Hmm... So now I want to do some research into Pennsylvania appellate procedure because such a statement from a trial attorney in my state would prove to me that the trial attorney doesn't know how appeals work. Here in Kansas, we can't raise ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and we don't have witnesses during the appellate process. Other states do it differently, though. So I can't immediately say that this guy is an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about (at least not on this topic...), but I'm leaving that possibility open.

I guess the basic point to this post is let's leave the appeal to the appellate lawyers and not declare now what issues they will and will not include in the brief they will submit next year. And outspoken defense attorneys who are already in some trouble for violating gag orders should probably shut up already and turn the case over to the next set of lawyers.

Location:The premature talk of Jerry Sandusky's appeal

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Princess Movies of 2012

I may be a feminist and a bit of a tomboy, but I've always loved a princess movie. (My name does mean princess, after all.) Especially of the Disney animated variety. I have them all (except the 1937 "Snow White" 'cause I hate that version). Sure, I laugh at the bodies and wonder about the one-day "love at first sight" romances, but they're fairy tales, so I don't look to them for a whole lot of realism.

This past month, I've seen the two newest princess movies. "Snow White and the Huntsman" and "Brave". Fair warning, I will be discussing plot points of both of them without regard to avoiding spoilers, so read on at your own risk.

What I find so exciting about both of these additions to the princess collection is that they aren't love stories. Romantic connections do not rest at the center of either of these movies. Now, of course, Snow White did have to have a hint of love because you can't tell the story of Snow White without the apple and the kiss of true love. But they did it in the best, most unobtrusive way possible. There was a prince character, who in the 1937 version would clearly have provided the kiss. He also had the added allure of a childhood friend lost when the Evil Queen divided the kingdom. So both he and Snow had this naive sense that perhaps they should be together. But before the apple, Snow does kiss him (or at least a person she thinks is him). A chaste, closed-mouth kiss. But as she pulls away, the viewer can tell that the kiss wasn't what she had thought it should be. That it was disappointing. Not right. So then when she does fall into the apple coma and does need to be rescued, the saving kiss comes from the other guy, the one who has actually gotten to know grown-up Snow and it represents more of a promise of what might be. The best part of it all, though, is that he doesn't stick around to see her wake up. So when she does come to, she's alone and makes quite an impression walking out into a courtyard filled with people mourning the death of the person they thought could defeat the Evil Queen and save the kingdom. She gets to give a rousing speech (not exactly on the order of the St. Crispin's Day speech, but, hey, not everyone can be Henry V and not everyone can have William Shakespeare for a speechwriter) and then she gets to lead an army in an assault on the castle. After she defeats the queen, there's no big kiss, no romantic declarations. There's just a coronation. And a slight smile in the direction of the guy who kissed her awake. But the point is that it isn't about Snow White finding true love and being rescued. It's about Snow White reclaiming her kingdom as the rightful heir to the throne. The guy just existed to satisfy a minor plot point.

Then we move on to "Brave." First, as an aside, I read one review proclaiming that the movie lacks heart and I just have to wonder what the hell movie that reviewer saw. Because it wasn't the one that had me crying last night. But, anyway, this movie has got to be the first princess movie in the history of princess movies to have nary a whiff of romance. Not one bit. And it is so delightfully refreshing. There is talk of the Princess Merida's impending betrothal. And there is a gathering of the Scottish clans involving a challenge between 3 potential suitors. But from the get-go, it is readily apparent that none of the suitors are at all suitable. One of the suitor voices was provided by the guy who plays Dr. Owen Hunt on "Grey's Anatomy" so I had been expecting one of the suitors to be acceptable, even if they mutually rejected the idea of an arranged marriage. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no possibility of a love match. Instead, the central relationship in the movie is between Merida and her mother. Which in and of itself is refreshing as so many princess movies involve motherless princesses. The plot dilemma is resolved, Merida and the other first-borns of the clans are now going to be allowed to choose their own spouses, and all is well. And in the end, there is not one hint of a possible suitor or boyfriend or flirtation for Merida. Every previous princess movie would have had a stable boy who bickered cutely with the princess and then helped in the crisis. But not this movie. This movie knew that romance had nothing to do with the story it had to tell.

Say what you will about either of these movies in terms of script weaknesses or odd acting (what was with that accent at times, Charlize?). But in terms of stereotypical princess movie plot points, these two do not get stuck in the same old ruts and neither of these gals needs a man to rescue her or even help her out much. Well, Snow White needs several hundred men in her army, but there's no mistaking who that army is following into battle. Her journey is all about retaking her rightful spot as Queen. Merida, too, is more focused on coming to accept and embrace the leadership and diplomacy parts of being a princess than the arranged marriage, proper lady elements she has so far resisted. In fact, she is liberated from those princess duties her mother had previously tried to impose on her.

What a difference from the original Snow White who was rescued by her Prince Charming she'd barely met. Likewise for the Princess Aurora. Ariel risked her very soul for a guy she'd never yet spoken to. Cinderella fell in love at first sight to a guy who couldn't pick her out of a line-up the next day. Even Rapunzel couldn't free herself from her adoptive mother/kidnapper without the help of a random guy who just happened to find her tower. (Though I can't knock that one because I think Flynn Rider, as voiced by Zachary Levi, is one of the best voice performances I've ever seen. They should seriously consider an Oscar category for that and he should have won.) Heck, even the first "Princess Diaries" had Anne Hathaway's character finding a cute boy to kiss. These two princess movies break that mold. Finally.

So, yeah, I'll take these princess movies. Where the princess is on the path to ruling, where her princess-y responsibilities are about leadership, not decorum and pretty dresses, and where she has better, more interesting stories to tell than a story of romantic love.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I am so trying to be zen with my life as it is. It isn't bad. I have lots of friends. I have a great dog. I have a great job and a cute house. I just go home alone every night, which really sucks and is harder than I remember from the period before I got to go home with someone.

But I'm trying. I'm trying to be ok with being the favorite of my friends' kids. Kids all love me. Especially, they love my hair. Curls hook kids. And I make great faces and I'm fun and I'll read to them and I think I'm good at talking to kids appropriately for whatever age they are. So I'm trying to be ok with the idea that I'll never have one of my own because I'm Auntie Sarah to lots and lots of kids.

And I'm trying to be ok with the fact that I'm alone because I won't settle. I could probably have a boyfriend if I would have settled for 5'1 guy or Mr. Wants to Sit in His Backyard and Think guy or any number of other guys who my friends all think are beneath me.  (Of course, I'm also constantly told I'm too picky...)

I'm trying so hard to be ok with the idea that I'm just too awesome to be hooked by anyone else. But it's really hard. Because the truth is I am so lonely, I could cry. Every night, I could cry. Not could. I do cry. And it's so hard to know that Mr. WoSiHBaTG has a girlfriend, someone who is also too good for him but just gave up and settled. And all the other people around me who aren't as smart or aren't as fun or aren't as hot as I am but yet found that someone. But that's ok, right?

But it isn't. And I'm not ok. I am so, so lonely. No amount of fabulous nights out with fabulous friends, even when I am the center of attention, will make up for the fact that at the end of the night, I am alone. I walk home alone. I go to bed alone. I pay the mortgage alone. I deal with the dog and the car and the burnt out light bulbs and the stupid front door and the yard and all the rest of it alone. I don't want to, though. I just want someone to help out, to share the burden. To make sure I have birthday plans or that I get home ok. Or just to help me feel that not every single thing is a frustrating, stupid chore that I can't avoid.

No matter how much of a front I put on, I am not ok with any of it. But there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Finally, the Roger Clemens mess comes to an end

So after 5 years, 2 trials, 10 weeks of evidence, and 10 hours of jury deliberation, the feds have nothing to show for their prosecution of Roger Clemens. Nothing except a bill for who knows how many taxpayer dollars.

And we paid for this, jurors took 10 weeks out of their lives, and Roger Clemens spent 5 years fearing the consequences of a federal conviction over what? Yes, we can try to pretend that  it's a really big deal when someone lies to Congress. But in the end, this was about whether some guy took a performance enhancing drug while playing baseball. Let's not pretend that people don't lie to Congress, and about things that matter a whole lot more than steroids in baseball. Yes, I definitely fall in the camp of those who think some lies are worse than others. Because they are.

The lesson to be learned from this (and from the John Edwards result) is that maybe federal prosecutors (or prosecutors in general) can do a better job of deciding which cases to prosecute. Not every crime that can be charged should be. There's a popular notion that suggests we all on average could be charged with about 3 felonies a day. We're not all running around committing burglaries and batteries and other obvious crimes. But there are a lot of things we all do without even realizing that violate some obscure federal law. The point is that federal prosecutors have to exercise a lot of discretion in choosing who to pursue charges against and who to leave alone.

Roger Clemens is a high profile guy and would have been a big prize. But he also isn't exactly a bad guy threatening the safety of his neighbors. And while a lot of people think he did lie to Congress, even if he did, his motivation wouldn't have been profit or skewing public policy on some topic that would affect millions of Americans. His motivation would have been to protect his baseball legacy. Some people might think that is tied to a desire to earn more money through endorsement deals, etc. But I doubt that. Either way, though, if he lied to Congress, it wasn't something that adversely affected public policy. And so the federal prosecutors deciding whether to pursue charges against Clemens had a credible, defensible basis for deciding not to pursue these charges while still charging others who might lie to Congress on matters of substance.

Clemens will get his comeuppance in the baseball court, anyway. Everyone thinks he's a cheater, so he won't be elected to the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire is proof of that. For a guy who rose to the top of the game, I don't think there can be much worse punishment than being shunned now. If only the feds had recognized that before they wasted a whole lot of taxpayer money (MY money!) pursuing a charge that wasn't all that big a deal in the first place.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Teenagers really aren't adults. Really.

What is the point of having a juvenile justice system if we're just going to waive every kid accused of a serious felony up to adult court anyway? There is such a societal disconnect in terms of how we view teenagers, kids. When we're willing to consider them kids and when we're not.

There isn't a state in this country where anyone under the age of 18 can be bound by a contract, regardless of how smart that teenager might be. (The exception, of course, is for any teenager who is officially declared an emancipated minor by a court, but those kids are few and far between.) Child pornography laws almost universally apply to anyone under 18. (Honestly, I don't know of any laws that have a younger legal age, but the lawyer in me says "almost" because I haven't researched every single state.) Nowhere can someone under 18 vote or smoke. Heck, you have to be 3 years older even than that to drink legally. No exceptions.

But if you're 15 and pull the trigger on a gun, an awful lot of jurisdictions will push, and push hard, to treat you like an adult. See, eg., this case. It makes no sense. And it seems that the more serious the crime, the likelier prosecutors are to push for adult status. Which, if you think about it honestly, is pretty much the opposite of how it should be.

In so many areas of the law, we adults all acknowledge how dumb teenagers can be. We are willing to remember what stupid mistakes we made as teens. How utterly incapable we were of thinking about long-term consequences. When we're 15 and do something dumb and impulsive, we don't think about how that will affect ourselves and others when we're 40. We just don't. And when it comes to contracts or sex or drinking or voting, we as a society take a no-exceptions approach to protecting dumb-ass teens from themselves. Regardless of the specific circumstances. Regardless of the specific kid's intelligence level, education, etc. We just know that we know better than idiot teens, even really smart teens. Because even really smart teens are bundles of crazed hormones with no developed impulse control.

So why are we as a society (and by we, I mean people other than me, because I would treat all teens as juveniles) so willing to forget our natural tendency to treat all teenagers as idiots who can't control themselves when it comes to criminal law? Yes, kids who are 15, 16, 17, are old enough to have some sense of right and wrong. But so are kids who are 8 and we don't treat them like adults when it comes to criminal prosecution. The point with teenagers isn't whether they have some abstract sense of right and wrong, but rather whether they have fully developed impulse control (they don't) or the ability to appreciate the real, lasting, long-term consequences of their actions (they don't). It's because we get this about teens that we protect them from their impulsive actions if they try to enter into contracts or engage in some sexual activities. There is no intellectually honest reason for not also protecting them in some way from their impulsive actions that violate criminal laws, even if those actions result in serious, lasting harm to others. The harm resulting from the action doesn't change the fact that the act itself was done by a dumbass teenager.

Treating kids like adults based on the seriousness of the resulting harm doesn't jibe with the point of treating kids differently in the first place, which is that kids don't have the brain function necessary to fully appreciate the possible consequences (aka harms) of their actions!

In Sarah's World, the utopia where I am the benevolent dictator in charge of everything (I truly think you could all trust me to make decisions that would be in your best interests (and you'd all be really well dressed), though I don't blame you for not wanting to live under even the most benevolent and wise of dictators), those teenagers who were tried as adults would be as few and far between as emancipated minors are. And I wouldn't use the nature of their crimes when considering whether teens should be tried as adults. I would only look at the particular teen, that teen's brain development, maturity, ability to articulate consequences. Because looking at the act itself, and the act's resulting harm, is nonsensical when what we're supposed to be recognizing is that kids can't be expected to control their actions in the same way adults can and can't be expected to comprehend the life-long consequences of those actions.

But I'm not in charge and "tough on crime" is in, so kids who would be protected from contracts they had entered into or sexual relationships they willingingly engaged in will continue to be treated as sternly as 40 year-old adults when they pick up a gun, intellectual honesty be damned.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Just so you know, I take client confidentiality pretty seriously. If there are degrees of ethical rules, that one would be the top dog. Well that and the rules against monkeying with client money. But I'm a public defender, so I don't deal with money. So the confidentiality is my big one. It really should be for any criminal defense attorney because if our clients don't trust us, we can't do our jobs.

I don't talk about my clients. I don't talk about the facts of their cases and all the things that didn't make it into the public record. I never, ever share my opinions about my clients, their cases, etc. I will talk over legal issues with other defenders, of course, because talking through issues makes them better. But the really good, juicy stuff?  I have to keep my mouth shut.

Can I just tell you how frustrating it is not to be able to talk about this thing that consumes the majority of one's waking hours?! I mean, I'm not like a volcano that's gonna blow any day now. I will continue to maintain my clients' confidentiality. But, man, there are days when I seriously want to hire a therapist or hire someone on as a consultant for an hour or two just so I can unload.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Maricopa County again

Is there ever positive, encouraging news coming out of Maricopa County, Arizona? Actually, it is getting better as a few of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's closest allies have started to suffer the consequences of working with the most corrupt sheriff in the county. But Sheriff Joe himself is still in charge.

Today, I saw this reminder that Maricopa County still has some work to do. An inmate whose bail had been paid somehow wound up dead in the jail. His mother saw his body and swears it was covered in bruises. The jail told his mother he choked on a peanut butter sandwich, but since he was allergic to peanut butter, she doesn't believe that version of events.

I'm sure inmates die at jails all over. Maybe not inmates who should no longer be inmates because they have already been bailed out. And I'm sure families are always really upset and want answers. And sometimes because the loved one's body is covered in unexplained bruises. But somehow this just stands out more, feels worse because it happened in Maricopa County, on Sheriff Joe's watch. That guy is just bad news and he needs to go. Hasn't the camel's back broken yet?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fox News and the New York Post have gotten their collective panties in a twist because a public school principal has refused to allow kids to sing the Lee Greenwood song "God Bless the USA" at a school event. You know, "and I'm proud to be an American..."

Only one part of this story offends me: the part where the song is described as a "beloved" ballad. Let's just get one thing straight. That song is terrible. It is awful, trite, cheesy dreck. My soul dies a little bit every time I'm forced to hear it. Oh, and the overtly religious message also offends me and has no place in a public school. And fairly mindless, chest-thumping "Go America" stuff just isn't my style. But, truly, my primary objection is how unbelievably awful that stupid song is.

Anyone who spares captive audiences from having to listen to that song is a hero in my book.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Oh great googily moogily. The current Kansas science standards are set to be revised in 2014. Which means that work on the revisions will begin soon. And today, the opening salvo was fired. A member of the state Board of Education has said he is "troubled" by our current standards. He wants standards that incorporate material questioning evolution.

Not that Ken Willard is a scientist, mind you. He sold insurance and has a degree in political science.

We in Kansas have already put up with this nonsense. We got a BoE who switched the standards on us years ago and made us the laughingstock of the nation. And Kansans didn't put up with it. We voted those rubes out and got the Board back on track to put science over dogma. (People outside of Kansas always seem to forget that part.) So I'm really not looking forward to having to deal with this nonsense again.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Kansas: the state of devolution

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In which I wish for a kinder, gentler world

I'm kind of a crime junkie. And I'm kind of a web junkie. And, last but by no means least, I'm kind of a comments on crime news web site junkie. I can't help myself. Some people in the public have some really weird ideas about criminal justice. I find it instructive to read what prospective jurors have to say, how they think. Instructive and at times terrifying.

One of the things I find the most terrifying is how many people are willing, even eager, to write off criminals, just throw them away. Every story is filled with comments calling the suspect trash, POS, worthless, lowlife, scum. (And let's not pretend this is about internet anonymity, because it isn't. People say the same vile things when it's linked to their Facebook accounts. In fact, the FB comments are generally worse than the anonymous CNN ones.)

I don't get it. How people can be so mean and hateful and judgmental. How people can think any human being is a waste of space. Especially when the crimes they've committed (or are accused of) are really pretty minor. When the issue is really one of mental health or substance abuse or self-esteem. Call me a pollyanna, a bleeding heart, naive, ridiculous, or whatever else you can think of. But I don't think anyone is worthless. And I don't think that people who throw around names and descriptors and adjectives like that have any claim to the moral high ground. I also believe that people are more than the worst thing they've ever done. Even if that worst thing is triple homicide or rape of a child.

But when MTV's Teen Mom Amber, whose troubles have already resulted in her losing custody of her child, gets a 5 year prison sentence for drug crimes, someone (who I'm tempted to name because she wrote it on MSNBC's FB page) wants to see "how tough she is when she becomes someone else's bitch!" Someone else thinks "We have sunk pretty low as a society if we really care about this lowlife..." See, I always thought it was NOT caring about people that would be a sign of societal decline.

Does it really cost anyone anything to spare a little sympathy for this troubled young woman? To reserve judgement? To think she's probably not a totally worthless human being? I know that not everyone wants to do what I do and stand up with these people, advocate for them. I do it because someone has to. (It's a fundamental right that we're supposed to value in our society, after all.) And I do it because the sad reality is that so many of these people never have had anyone stand up for them before. Odds are that Amber's parents weren't great prizes who treasured her, showed her compassion, made her think she was worth anything. So would it kill the rest of us who had good parents or inner resources or for whatever other reason didn't go down the wrong path to still view those who do make mistakes, even big, criminal ones, with something less than total disdain, contempt, or hatred?

The Ambers of the world definitely need to face consequences for their actions. She definitely needs a little tough love. And it's probably best for her child that she doesn't have custody right now. And there are a lot of people who really do need to be in secure facilities so they can't hurt themselves or others. But it seems like an awful lot of people have gone so overboard on the tough thing and have forgotten to spare any room for the love part. I wish it would stop. I wish empathy and compassion would come back into vogue. I wish people would stop being proud of the idea that some people are trash. No one is worthless. And I think we'd all be better for it if we could live by that principle. 

Of course, the same people who would throw away their fellow humans would also think that the bleeding heart who would defend criminals (even a sad and pathetic one like Amber) is also vile scum just wasting space on this earth. So my hope for more kindness on earth is probably wasted on them. Sigh.

Monday, June 4, 2012

RHONY is back, so indulge me for a minute

If you really want to be a friend of mine, it is important that you agree with me on this one thing. Original Housewife of New York City LuAnn de Lesseps, aka "The Countess," is a truly horrible person.

She is rude and obnoxious and pushy and full of herself and condescending. In short, she's just a bitch. And at least on t.v., she never displays any of this class and elegance that she always proclaims she is full of when she's doing her confessional interviews.

I know, I know. I should be above watching this tripe and I should find better things to do with my life than sitting at home alone every night. Just leave me alone and let me have my silly t.v. shows. And agree with me that LuAnn sucks.
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