02 March 2015

Murderous and bizarro

I don't understand the bizarro focus, the murderous bizarro focus some people have on non-heterosexual behavior.
Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.
That's text from a proposed ballot measure in California (PDF). It's not on the ballot yet; the proponent has just filed and paid the fee to be allowed to start gathering signatures.

The proponent is an attorney, one Matthew McLaughlin, so he should know better -- you can't magically make something constitutional simply by getting voters to pass it. This proposed measure comes about a decade after he attempted, but failed (PDF), to require public schools to provide KJV Bibles to students.

McLaughlin's previous initiative had the plausible opt-out that it was voluntary to use the provided Bibles. He failed anyway because it was so obviously an attempt to get the thin end of the Christian religion wedge into public schools, and voters saw through it early in the process. He never gathered enough signatures. So now . . .  McLaughlin is doubling down? With some full-bore extreme reaction against the ultimate demise of Prop 8, maybe?

Whatever it is, as I said when I started writing this, I don't get it. I don't get how one person starts with reading the term "abomination" in their religious text and then carries that through to attempting to get it legislated that gay people can be legally executed on the street. It's not laughable. It's sad and intriguingly scary. Perhaps at this point someone in California can institute some lawyer disciplinary proceeding against him for this move.

26 February 2015

Poking around a white supremacist constitution so you don't have to

Following some bouncing links the other day (seriously, don't ask), I stumbled across the "Constitution" of the "Northwest American Republic," a proposed white supremacist nation seeking to establish itself somewhere in Cascadia and currently operating out of, I believe, Port Orchard, Washington. The draft constitution's bill of rights contains the expected conservative wackadoo provisions ("The right to life of unborn children, beginning at conception, shall be respected and enforced by the state"; "The right to keep and bear arms shall not be qualified or restricted by any requirement of licensing, registration, fee, taxation, restriction on transportation, or other such impediment"), a couple of unexpectedly progressive provisions ("All residents and citizens of the Republic shall have the right to adequate and life-preserving medical care, free of charge"; "All citizens and residents of the Republic shall enjoy the right, free of charge, to all such education, technical training, vocational training, and instruction as shall be within their innate personal capacity to understand, assimilate, and apply in life"), and at least one hilairiously qualified provision ("All residents and citizens of the Republic shall enjoy the right to complete freedom of speech, freedom of artistic and creative expression, and freedom of the press. (This article shall not be construed as limiting or interdicting the right of the government of the Republic or competent local authority to control or prohibit expressions of obscenity and/or pornography.)").

Though of course I don't agree with the understood policy behind this particular enumeration of rights, I get it. The drafters are looking to promote education among the populace and to keep people non-broke and healthy, both for the better functioning of the republic. They also want everyone to have as many guns as possible and ban abortions and likely a lot of forms of contraception as well, because they're conservative wackadoos. And they want people to be able to say the n-word but not the f-bomb, because they're racist conservative wackadoos.

Now, I'm a lawyer, so I poked around the constitution's sections relating to lawyering and the judiciary. Interestingly, strangely, and/or bizarrely, the constitution refers to a judiciary but there's no actual judicial branch of the national government. That is, there are executive and legislative branches of the government, but no third-arm judicial check on them. The policy here is stated clearly in the constitution itself: they don't dig so-called judicial activism ("The courts and judiciary shall have no governmental or policy-making role whatsoever within the State; these powers are reserved to the legislative and executive branches"). Again, policy I don't agree with, but I understand the mindset it's coming from.

But then then constitution goes full-on "let's kill all the lawyers":
No resident, citizen, or other person charged with a criminal offense before the courts of the Republic shall be denied the right to counsel and advocate of his choice, provided such counsel or advocate shall accept no fee, reward, emolument in money or kind, property or thing of value, officially or unofficially, for the performance of such function, and shall affirm such on oath before the commencement of trial or other proceeding.
Emolument is a term that means simply "payment" but sounds classy because it's used in the U.S. Constitution and also that sneaky Hillary "Benghazi Vince Foster Whitewater" Clinton has run afoul of the Emoluments Clause not once but twice. Twice! More like BENGHOLUMENTS, amirite?

That distraction aside, the constitution goes further elsewhere as well:
No citizen or resident of the Northwest American Republic may charge or accept any monetary emolument, fee, gift, or anything of value for performing any service connected with law, legal processes, trial or litigation, or for speaking in defense of a defendant in any legal case.
I'm killin' myself here trying to understand the policy behind this provision. Lawyers can't get paid? For any lawyering work? I mean, never mind how this mechanism goes beyond merely discouraging "frivolous" lawsuits and effectively shuts down the courts as a meaningful institution. But no paying for a will, a power of attorney, a business transaction? No hiring someone to do some sabre-rattling for you when your insurance company balks at paying out a claim? How about notarizing documents? Isn't notarizing a "service connected with law"?

How do they expect to fill their judges' benches? I mean, banning compensation for lawyers is a disincentive to become a lawyer. Or even if you do become a lawyer, then it's a disincentive to become an experienced lawyer. And isn't it best to have judges who come from the ranks of experienced trial lawyers?

The constitution appears to restrict the courts to trial-level tribunals. Is there no appeal system? Does this constitution de-activist the courts to such a degree that it gives a magistrate the final decision power of a court of last resort?

At least the constitution doesn't abolish the writ of habeas corpus.

Finally, most importantly, and the real reason for why we need to adopt the Northwest Front's constitution as America's new, improved constitution, and I mean truly above all else, is that it enshrines dueling as a civil right for male residents and citizens:
In order to instill and maintain the highest standards of personal courtesy, deliberation, maturity, integrity and courage in the manhood of the Republic, the State President in his capacity as chief magistrate shall establish and supervise a National Honor Court. The said body shall in turn create and enforce all necessary regulations, procedures, and protocols for the resolution of personal differences between individual male residents and citizens of the Republic, up to and including private combat by mutual consent, in accordance with the ancient and historic traditions and practices of the European family of nations.
Ancient and historic! Also Spielbergian:

17 February 2015

If an arrestee yells "F--k the police!" in empty, rural Pennsylvania, does anyone hear him?

Here's a gem from the Court Summaries section of the most recent Pennsylvania Bar News:
Evidence insufficient for disorderly conduct conviction, unreasonable noise, 18 Pa.C.S. 5503(a)(2), when defendant yelled at police alongside rural highway out of hearing of any residential community or neighborhood and no evidence any member of public heard him.
Got that? The police stopped the defendant for something and among the charges filed were the "making an unreasonable noise" definition of disorderly conduct. And not only charged them with that, but won a conviction, even though the interaction took place in the middle of nowhere and nobody, outside of the participants, could have possibly heard the commotion.

The situation involved the defendant illegally dumping some trash. The rubbish included an American flag, so of course the charges also included a violation of Pennsylvania's wildly unconstitutional (but as yet unchallenged) anti-desecration law for good measure. During the arrest, defendant started yelling all kinds of ridiculous, insulting things at the cops. But, Superior Court writes, if a person yells ridiculous, insulting things in Outer Stickville, Pennsylvania, and nobody actually hears it, has he truly made a sound at all (PDF)?

So, cheers to Superior Court for properly tossing this conviction. That said, jeers to Superior Court for giving the police step-by-step instructions for how they should have properly charged the defendant instead (see Footnote 3).

16 February 2015

On firing a client

Bah, had to fire a (completely insane, pill-popping, drama-tastic) pro bono client today. They had no-showed at three straight appointments without canceling beforehand.

During the phone call, they repeated, "I don't think you're being very fair," to which I answered, "I'm sorry you feel that way" and offered to give them the phone number of the agency that referred them. I'm good at being a broken record; they finally took the number and I gotta say I'm glad I won't be hearing that particular voicemail.

The client's mental illness played a part in their not making the appointments, and that's sad. I could have tried harder to remind them about the appointments, or maybe even travel to their home to get the case moving along. But I can't afford to keep clearing my calendar to deal with a client who may pop a Valium in the middle of a meeting and who appears to have given me a much rosier picture of their matter than it really is. Man, did they raise some red flags during our intake interview last year -- red flags that I was blessed to receive from the mentally ill person in my family of origin. So much drama. So many prescriptions. So many phone calls they made and answered while I was conducting the intake interview.

And now they're in my own phone's address book as "DO NOT ANSWER - document voicemail."

Just because a person suffers from a mental illness doesn't mean that the people they deal with aren't allowed to set boundaries. And maybe if the people they interact with regularly -- family, co-workers, friends -- set better boundaries more often, then they would be just a little bit better at managing their illness. I may be accused of not having enough sympathy for the mentally ill. (To which I'd say, well, since I grew up in it, I'm pretty damn tired of it. And so while I'm not afraid of it, I do try to minimize the amount of it I ever have to deal with any more.) But it was the client who told me that this matter was very, very urgent and wanted it wrapped up as quickly as possible  . . . and then skipped three appointments to get their case started in the courts. I'm very comfortable with showing this client the "three strikes, you're out" door.

14 February 2015

"This makes them immune to the Jew."

Vice.com reads 8chan so you don't have to:
Over the last couple of months, a motley crew of white supremacists, Latvian lawyers, and fertile women have heeded the call [to establish a white people's homeland in Namibia], in a last-ditch effort to save white culture. They have launched a project to found a new nation on the principles of "European Heritage," "Western Values," and National Socialism in the largely black country in southern Africa.
The article is good for a laugh, and I'm glad the author screencaps so much, so that I don't have to sully my own internet connection by going to 8chan.

12 February 2015

Encore du mais soufflé S.V.P.

Pass the popcorn:
Le Conseil de Paris a donné son feu vert mercredi à une plainte en diffamation de la mairie de Paris, après la diffusion sur Fox News de propos selon lesquels la capitale abriterait des "no-go zones", des zones interdites où s'appliquerait la charia.
(On Wednesday, the city council of Paris gave the green light to the mayor's defamation lawsuit following a broadcast of remarks on Fox News, according to which the capital harbored so-called "no-go zones," forbidden areas where sharia law supposedly applies.)

The council vote wasn't unanimous, however. And one political leader declares that the lawsuit is making a mountain out of a molehill ("Il n'y a pas de quoi faire un fromage"). Another feels that the broadcast was "scandalous, malicious, and not a little ridiculous," but that the lawsuit looks more like a PR stunt on the part of mayor Anne Hidalgo, not "a useful operation for Parisians." Hidalgo has countered that even though the broadcast was risible, Fox News's claims of 750 no-go zones and the "improbable" map used to illustrate them are legally actionable lies because they were "insulting" and "prejudicial."

11 February 2015

Bisy backson

Nothing like a few days' worth of meetings to keep me away from blogging.

06 February 2015

Charging what I'm worth

Man, there's nothing like hearing, "Oh, yeah, listen, that's a little more than I was expecting to have to pay" when you quote your billing rate to someone whose own rate probably exceeds three times yours.

Christ on a cracker.

Not sure if it was that my degree is from a "bottom 90%" law school, or that my law license is only 5 years old. Or maybe it's something else -- I do see that the nature of the work that was sent to me was more copyediting than lawyering, but I'm a lawyer, so I charge a lawyering rate for my work.

Period.

If you want to pay legal assistant rates, then hire a legal assistant, not a lawyer. I'm actually not that expensive, as far as lawyers go. I know what local BigLaw attorneys make, attorneys who graduated the same year or so that I did. I charge less than that, because, hey, I don't keep myself in Armani suits and a Class A office space. We all got bills to pay, though, and we're all allowed to charge what we're worth.

Friday jukebox: Chet Atkins

Effortless:

05 February 2015

Chatfield on adjuncting

My pal David Chatfield is an adjunct professor of art with a Catch-22. One of his school employers requires that he hold office hours, but only recently gave him an actual office to hold them in. The office, though, is essentially a storage closet for another academic department. His
response:
[D]o not call us adjunct. The word means "something added to another thing but not essential to it." We are absolutely essential.

And do not call us contingent. The word contingency means "a provision for an unforeseen event or circumstance." In other words, Plan B.

Increasingly, we are Plan A. We are the majority of higher ed teachers and yet are treated like we are still Plan B.
More.

Report that Islamic State is going medieval on kids

It reads like propaganda:
Islamic State militants are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves, and killing other youth, including by crucifixion or burying them alive, a United Nations watchdog said on Wednesday.

[ ... ]

"We have had reports of children, especially children who are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding," [Renate] Winter told Reuters. "There was a video placed (online) that showed children at a very young age, approximately eight years of age and younger, to be trained already to become child soldiers."

[ ... ]

"Children of minorities have been captured in many places... sold in the market place with tags, price tags on them, they have been sold as slaves," Winter said, giving no details.
This sounds so unreal. And it comes a day or so after a former CIA deputy director told the media that NATO will need 100,000 troops "into Iraq and possibly into Syria" to deal with Islamic State.

And Fox News is helping by posting the entire video of the Jordanian pilot whom IS burned alive in a cage (no, I won't link to it).

Maybe IS has some yellowcake uranium, too.

03 February 2015

"Revelations told me so; therefore, First Amendment"

One of these guys:
A Christian Fundamentalist who suspects Social Security numbers are the "mark of the beast" cannot sue for religious discrimination after he lost an internship over his beliefs, [the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals] ruled (PDF).
As a volunteer reviewing attorney for a legal services nonprofit, I help screen incoming complaints from people who believe their legal rights have been stomped on. We got one of these "Revelations told me so; therefore First Amendment" knuckleheads the other day. I had the office volunteer send them a letter referring them to the Alliance Defense FundDefending Freedom. The note I left in the complainant's database record ran something along the lines of, "The right-wing Christian fundamentalist lawyers created this; let 'em deal with it."

Hillary Clinton won't announce for months

You people who think that Hillary Clinton will announce her campaign for the presidency any time before, like, late July are so funny. Why on god's green earth would she not maximize the amount of time permitting the various dumbass GOP candidates to say and do the most incredible things?

What would Chris Christie have said about vaccinations if Clinton were in the race already?

Would Mitt Romney have dropped out?

Would Sarah Palin have hired a speechwriter (or "teleprompter repairperson")?

Let's stay hunkered down during these winter cold snaps, wait for spring to come and go, and tune back in after the 4th of July -- and let Clinton hang with her granddaughter. The longer she stays out of the race, the more hilarious stories she can tell her about these GOP knuckleheads.

02 February 2015

Holy shit, the NYPD is about to go full military

Anti-terror strike force!
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Thursday that the NYPD is establishing a new anti-terror strike force.

The unit of 350 cops will be specially trained in high-tech weaponry to deal with protests, "lone wolf" attacks and evolving threats posed by terrorists, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

The Strategic Response Group, Bratton said, will be dedicated to "disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities."
"Disorder control"? Rifles and machine guns to control mass protests?

This is what democracy looks like!

Incredible number of homeless kids in NYC

New York City is housing its homeless in sub-code "cluster units," decrepit apartments managed by real estate ventures taking hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from the city to shelter people with collapsing ceilings and exposed rat poison:
By mid-December, the homeless census reached a record 59,068 — nearly the population of Utica, city records show. The Coalition for the Homeless says it peaked even higher at 60,352.

The homeless count, according to the city and the coalition, includes 25,000 children. And it represents a 10% jump from the 53,615 in shelters on de Blasio’s Inauguration Day.
So. Buildings that are sub-code and wouldn't pass inspection, so let's put homeless kids in there so they can ingest lead paint dust while they're shivering because there's no heat.

Also? Fuck the Daily News for using a woman of color with 11 kids as the example for this article; a quick glance at the comments section will show what actual message the article got across. But she's not homeless because she has 11 kids at home. She's homeless because the rent is too damn high (PDF). And her kids are just a few of the 25,000 that are homeless now, up from 22,712 in January 2014. Note that the Daily News doesn't pretend to say that her family is typical of the families in these deathtrap apartments. Nope, she's just a good poster child, like this Clinton welfare reform-era golden oldie:

30 January 2015

Bronx Defenders blow it

So much poor decisionmaking:
Attorneys at a New York City public defenders’ office participated in an online video that advocated the killing of police officers, featuring the lyrics "time to start killing these coppers," a city investigation disclosed on Thursday.

[ ... ]

Two attorneys with the Bronx Defenders, a city-funded legal service organization, appear in the anti-police video, some of which was filmed at the Bronx office, according to the New York City Department of Investigation report.

The Bronx Defenders posted a message on its website saying it "abhors the use of violence against the police."

"The Bronx Defenders never approved the music video 'Hands Up,' and never saw it before it went online," it said. "We deeply regret any involvement with this video."

Credits at the end of the video cite the Bronx Defenders as its sponsor.
The establishment is commenting with the type of hyperbole you'd expect, though there's no proof yet that, you know, the head of the Defenders personally wrote, starred in, directed, and produced the video. The filmmakers can put whatever they want in the credits, and it's not necessarily an accurate representation of the amount of "sponsorship" the Defenders actually gave them. The Defenders have quite a lot of plausible deniability, actually, that the video was done guerrilla-style and didn't really involve them at all. Except . . . 
The report also said the Bronx Defenders’ executive director, Robin Steinberg, failed to discipline staff members after learning about the video and made misleading statements to officials about their involvement.
In an alternate universe where Steinberg had done the right thing, the attorneys who appeared in the video and anyone who helped arrange the production at the Defenders office, for crying out loud, would have been out on the street. I'm wary about what kinds of statements the report describes as "misleading," as opposed to, say, "unresponsive" or just "unhelpful"; but in any event, "deeply regret" doesn't come close to what Steinberg should have done. Way to blow the office's credibility. This is a real shame.

The sound of one invisible hand clapping in Georgia

Georgia implemented a pile of right-to-work, anti-immigrant legislation, and now the invisible hand is smacking employers:
The work here can be physically demanding. Not a lot of people want to do it -- even though the average wage here is $16 per hour plus benefits.

Tom Hensley, the company president, says Fieldale Farms hires just about anyone who can pass a drug test.

"We hire 100 people a week. Because we have 100 people who quit every week, out of 5,000 employees," he says. "We're constantly short."
I'm no economist, but I do understand that supply 'n' demand works both ways. An employer who just can't get good help these days is an employer who's not paying wages that are high enough for good help. Sixteen an hour plus benefits is not a high wage -- you're looking to take home only some $11 or $12 after taxes. And it'll disqualify you from food stamps and other benefits.
"So we've had to hire middle-aged Americans who have not been used to working in an industrial facility and they have difficulty keeping up with the machines. So it's not the same labor force that we had 10 years ago," Hensley says.
So slow down the machines and pay the workers a respectful wage, a wage that "middle-aged" people, who probably have dependents at home as well, can actually live on.

Friday jukebox: Mudhoney

La, la, la!

29 January 2015

News from confirmed bachelor Lindsey Graham

Confirmed bachelor Lindsey Graham has a hat, and he's not afraid to throw it into the ring:
Graham formed a committee called "Security Through Strength," which allows him to raise money to fund travel around the country to gauge support for a candidacy.

[ . . . ]

Graham's organization is headed by David Wilkins, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush and a former speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Now, far be it from me to tell anyone that they should get married -- it'll take me some convincing to ever go down that road again, myself, that's for sure -- and it's absolutely none of my goddamned business what Graham does when he's not on the job. The point, of course, is that it shouldn't matter. But because it does, and because he's a war hawk who was never a combat veteran, and because he voted for Clinton's DOMA, and because he thinks Justice Alito is a "decent" man, it does.