Monday, October 29, 2012

Yeah, I've been quiet of late. The last 10 days or so have been, well, let's just go with intense. And now I'm recovering. So I haven't had a lot to say, not stuff that anyone wants to read, anyway.

But I do have to say this: it is a sin and a shame, no it's a crime, that Alcides Escobar is not a finalist for a Gold Glove award. Anyone who watches him play baseball has to understand that he is the best shortstop in the game. And it's not even close. He makes plays that no other shortstops even try. His range is ridiculous. And because he makes these ridiculous plays that no other shortstop could try, he has a few more errors than others. The error total is probably why he got left off the list, but for crying out loud. If scorers are going to hold him to a higher standard because he's just that much better than everyone else, shouldn't he win the award meant to acknowledge the shortstop who is that much better than everyone else?!

You were robbed, Alcides. Robbed!

Monday, October 22, 2012

This time

I really would say "I told you so." If given the chance.

Yes, yes, I know. I'm a petty, small, mean, petty (I should include it twice, I think) know-it-all. It's a wonder I have any friends.

But, darn it, I was right.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hey, I haven't heard from you in months! Oh, it must be election season.

I can always tell when advance ballots start arriving in my friends' homes by the emails. Inevitably, my non-lawyer friends (and I do have some non-lawyer friends) email me to find out which judges they should vote to retain. Our appellate judges are appointed, but then face retention votes every few years. (I want to say 6, and, yes, this is something you should expect me to know. Bad Sarah.)
In my county, our district court judges are also appointed, though there are some counties that elect their judges. So for most of my friends, I simply offer advice on whether any of the judges are deserving of a no vote.
This process I go through every election season highlights one of the reasons I disapprove of electing judges. The reality is that most people who don't use the court system much simply aren't in a position to place an informed vote. They don't know which judges ignore the law or mess up the rules or are incompetent, extremely fair, or whatever other qualities they might value in a good judge. At best, they hope to have a lawyer friend who can tell them if there are any judges they shouldn't vote for. At worst, they might know which particular criminal sentences sparked outrage for being too lenient, even if they know nothing about how the judge arrived at that sentence.
The appointment-retention election method of judicial selection is exponentially better than direct elections of judges, of course. Judges should never be elected, having to campaign and win votes with all of the politicking and promise-making that entails. I'd prefer that they not even be voted on by the public in the retention process, either, because I'm not comfortable with the idea that a judge could be voted out for making a ruling that is unpopular. A good judge should make the unpopular decision when it is legally warranted and shouldn't hold back out of fear of losing her job.
But since judges almost never lose the retention election, practically it's not an actual problem. Even when particular judges have been targeted by groups campaigning for a "no" vote, they have still easily won the vote. Perhaps the bigger problem with the retention vote system is that it leaves us without a realistic way of removing a judge who truly does deserve to lose his or her job.
As long as we retain the retention vote, though, I will happily continue to respond to all of my friends' requests for assistance because as long as the question is on their ballots, I want them to have some idea how they should vote.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I'm not gonna say "I told you so," but...

I don't actually need everyone in the world to know I'm right. It really is enough that I know I'm right. But sometimes it can be really fun to watch as the thing I said all along turns out to be absolutely, 100% correct and everyone comes to realize it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In the event of the apocalypse, who would take care of my guys?

Has anyone been watching Revolution? The show about what happened 15 years after all electricity went out and never came back. I want to like the show. I really do. J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau are producers. Elizabeth Mitchell (aka Juliet from LOST) is on it. It's an interesting idea, to envision what would happen to modern American society if we instantly lost our phones, our cars, our lights, a/c, refrigerators, etc. But they just haven't grabbed me yet. And I don't buy the idea that a high concept show can't grab you right away because LOST had me from the first second.

But what I'm really curious about, and what proves that I am a criminal defense nerd of the highest order, is what happened to all the incarcerated people when the power went out, governments folded, and society as we know it generally collapsed? Would someone have gone around to prisons and fed the inmates? Or just  opened all the doors? Might they have all been reduced to chain-gang style hard labors? Perhaps individual inmates might have intrepid family members who would come to rescue them? Or might they all have been forgotten about, abandoned and left to die in their cages? The logistics of this fascinate me.

Prisons are pretty reliant on electricity, especially when it comes to all the doors. There have to be ways to open the doors manually, I'd assume. But then would they all have to be opened one at a time? There are a lot of prisons in this country, housing a lot of prisoners. And I would imagine that as absolutely everything was going to hell, robbers and murderers and sex offenders probably wouldn't be high on many people's list. So I tend to think a lot of them might well just be stuck.

I also wonder how long the leadership structure would remain in place. One thing the show hasn't really nailed down for us is how long the US government or any state governments attempted to function after the blackout. We did see a flashback to about 6 months after the blackout where one of our main characters recognized that there was no law, no functioning police force to protect people and punish thieves, so he took it upon himself. But that could have simply been a matter of transportation and communication being slow, not exactly non-existent. So I wonder how long the leadership structure of any individual prison might have continued to function, even in some minimal way. I have met a few prison wardens and I think a few of them really enjoy running their own little fiefdoms. They might cling to whatever power they could maintain for as long as possible.

We know that the criminal justice system suffered serious lapses in the Katrina aftermath. Records destroyed by the flood, defendants forgotten about in jail. The courts were already overloaded and basically fell apart after the storm. The courts put out requests for attorneys to come from out of state and receive special status to help clear out some of the cases. And that was just one city suffering a temporary shutdown. But in the Revolution scenario, you've got every city, county, state, etc. suffering the shutdown with no resumption of normal activities. In New Orleans, a sad number of people arrested on really petty stuff, like pot possession, got lost in the shuffle and wound up spending months and months in jail. In the Revolution world, I'd have to imagine an awful lot of drunks taken to detox and college kids arrested on MIPs (minor in possession) and people arrested for unpaid parking tickets would suffer that fate and get stuck.

Yes, this really is what I spend my time thinking about. In the post-apocalyptic scenario (or at least the end of electricity scenario), what would happen to the inmates? I'd like to think it would be people like me, my defender family if you will, who would make sure they were safe and taken care of. But I'm useless without my iPhone. I'm pretty sure I would die in the first wave of any kind of giant-scale catastrophe. So I hope that the rest of you would step up and take care of my guys for me.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

AFA v. SPLC, Round 317

11 years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center came up with a program they hoped would help combat cliques and bullying in schools. They called it "Mix it Up at Lunch Day." On one day of the year, students are urged to sit at lunch with someone s/he would normally not talk to. The SPLC hopes to break down self-imposed barriers that lead to cliques which can lead to bullying. They want kids to reach across superficial barriers like economic class, race, ethnicity, and instead try to find similarities and understanding.

Sounds like a pretty cool idea to me. Don't we all remember how separated we could become in high school? How the theater kids sat here and the a/v nerds sat there and the popular kids sat at the center table and then there was that one girl that no one would sit with. Maybe if Mix It Up day had existed when I was in high school, I finally would have had the courage to go sit with that girl.

But apparently I have just been duped because the day isn't really about encouraging unity and discouraging bullying. The day is really all about furthering the homosexual agenda. Its super secret real name is "Homosexual Mix It Up Day." Thankfully, the American Family Association is here to tell us this. According to AFA, the SPLC is a "fanatical pro-homosexual group." (To be fair, the SPLC doesn't think much of AFA, either, having declared it a hate group.) And this Mix It Up thing is really all about "intimidat[ing] and silenc[ing] students who have a Biblical view of homosexuality." Just as all anti-bullying measures are really all about punishing Christians who believe homosexual behavior is wrong. Though the AFA does kindly add that no one is in favor of anyone getting bullied.

AFA is fighting back against this day by urging parents to keep their kids out of school on Mix It Up day. Because heaven forbid any darling little Christian kids be exposed to different kids who might not ordinarily be in their circle of friends. Especially not any of those icky, sinning gay kids. Which we all should know is SPLC's real goal of this day. It's really about bullying the Christian kids.

It must be exhausting for the people behind the AFA to be so ever-vigilant and always finding all of these efforts by the devious "fanatical pro-homosexual groups" to further the radical homosexual agenda. These groups are just so good at hiding their true purpose behind things that sound good, like anti-bullying efforts.  So I guess it's good we have the not-at-all fanatical AFA to ferret out that insidious homosexual agenda. Because I would have thought anti-bullying efforts, like getting school kids to go outside their comfort zone and get to know kids they normally wouldn't, were good. Silly me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On Mrs. Sandusky

Did you see the letter Dottie Sandusky wrote to the judge in advance of her husband's sentencing hearing? She wanted the judge to know that Jerry is not a monster, that he was good to people, that he didn't hurt those kids, etc., etc. I've seen many online comments today calling her sick, evil, demented, as guilty as he is.  But to me, she's just sad. Sad and pathetic and weak.

She's not the first older woman who found herself married to a nasty child molester I've encountered. Back in law school, I shadowed a parole officer for a day. One of his stops was at the home of an 80 year-old man who liked little girls a little too much. I will never forget walking into that house and seeing his 80 year-old wife to whom he had been married for 60 years. She welcomed us, puttered around while the p.o. talked to her husband, and occasionally offered assurances on particular points, like that he was going to counseling sessions and staying away from little girls. All while offering us tea in her cramped dining room that looked like it had been decorated 40 years ago. I was naive and oh so young and couldn't fathom why she stayed with him after finding out about his very indecent ways. She just seemed so sad, stuck, and resigned to standing by her man, like she had no choice. Maybe financially, she didn't but it was more that she didn't think any woman in any economic station would have that choice because staying with him was just what had to be done.

But I think I get it now. How hard must it be to try to face the fact that the man you married really is a child molesting creep. How much easier it is to deny the accusations, or even before that to ignore any warning signs you might see or instincts you have. Because if you recognize you married such a person, what does that say about you? Especially if you truly don't know anything about this until later in life. Do you then have to question your entire life, wonder what else you missed or what other terrible judgments you made? It would be an incredibly hard think to accept that your entire adult life had been in a sense a lie.

Which is why I don't despise Dottie Sandusky or think she's evil or anything like that. I can't work up the energy to be outraged at her words to the judge or her never apparently having noticed her husband's activities. I just think she's weak, too weak to choose any path except denial. It's not commendable, but it's understandable. And sad. And pathetic.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Today's craziest political candidate

Every time I read statements from a far-right, out there political candidate, I think I have surely heard the worst of it. But every time, I have simply underestimated how much crazier the next guy can get.

Today's entry into the contest of crazy is Charlie Fuqua, a Republican candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives. He has published a book, God's Law, that as far as I can tell is only available digitally. Judging from the descriptions and the excerpt I have read, I can't blame reputable publishing houses for declining to print this tripe.

First, Fuqua argues that there can be no other solution to the "Muslim problem" other than expelling all the Muslims. I am slightly curious to read and find out if he tries to argue how this solution doesn't violate the First Amendment. Because those intellectual gymnastics could be fun to watch while being entirely unsuccessful. Just as a hint Mr. Fuqua, expelling Muslims from the country could in no way be found to comport with freedom of religion. Fuqua himself expressed surprise that so many people seem troubled by his expulsion idea. He thinks his views are pretty accepted on that point.

Second, and even better, he has seriously called for the United States to allow parents to seek the death penalty for their rebellious children. Honestly. I could not make that up if I wanted to. Deuteronomy authorizes it, so it should be kosher, right? (By that logic, does our amendment outlawing slavery violate God's law?) He thinks that children will fall into line and respect their parents if they know that the state could let the parents off them for bad behavior. (Of course, he also thinks abortion is a sin and should be illegal. But what if the unborn child is rebellious, kicking too much, causing heartburn and raising blood pressure?)

It really can't get crazier than this, right? I have finally found the absolute limit. Right?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A band of cheerleaders at a public school in Texas have made national headlines for making banners including bible verses. Before every football game, the players all run through the banners as they enter the field. An anonymous complainant called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, WI organization. Consequently, the FFRF took legal action to prohibit the cheerleaders from using the banners.

From what I have seen, internet sentiment seems to be largely with the poor, oppressed cheerleaders who aren't being allowed to express their religious views. Most of the comments I waded through on this article thought it was very unfair that the cheerleaders would be bullied in this way. Some were particularly annoyed that the person who complained was remaining anonymous. The community has rallied around the cheerleaders, even creating a Facebook group. On that Facebook page, one can read lots of posts and see lots of pics about kids in that East Texas community standing up for their faith and read lots of comments about how no one will tell them they can't show their faith. Etc., etc.

But what I am not finding much of is concern for kids at that public high school who don't share that Christian  faith. Judging from the overwhelming support for the cheerleaders who want to spread their bible verses at football games, no one seems to worry much if there might be a cheerleader who doesn't support the banner use. Or worse, that there might be a girl in that school who would be a cheerleader, wants to be a cheerleader, but isn't welcome because she isn't Christian. Or that there might be a football player who only wants to defend on the field without having to defend his lack of faith as well. Individual students in the stands can display all the signs they want. Individual players and cheerleaders can put their bible verses in their eye black or on their socks, etc. But the cheerleaders as an official school thing need to be open to all, which means they don't get to have a religious identity. Even if every single one of the cheerleaders really and truly is a Christian because that still creates an atmosphere where other girls who might want to be cheerleaders won't feel welcome. Being the majority doesn't make it ok to promote one religious faith in a public school setting.

It's not surprising in the least that the original complainant has concealed his or her identity. In a town like this, where the cheerleaders get this kind of support and those of us who aren't Christian get so much flak, it takes a very strong character to stand up and take the abuse. When I was in high school, I was in a position to take action when some members of FCA got a little too preachy at school. They would put up signs around school urging us to find our savior. I would take them down. They were being allowed to participate in homecoming week activities until my friends and I said something to the administration. I'm contrary enough that I didn't care if people didn't like me. Plus, I knew I had friends on my side. And I didn't grow up in a small Texas town where it would seem everyone is expected to be Christian and woe unto him or her who dissents.

All the Christians in Kountze are free to shout their faith from every hilltop and building roof they can find. Heck, they're even free to have contempt for those of us who don't share their faith, shun us from their homes, or try to testify to us so our everlasting souls will be saved. But that all has to stop when they're on public high school time. Because not everyone is a Christian. And those of us who aren't get to participate, too.
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