Author Archives: SHG

The Invisible Westboro Baptist Church

Most have forgotten about a blight upon all that’s holy, a group that was the embodiment of offensiveness that it sorely tested our mettle, our dedication to civil liberties, because there was no good person who wouldn’t rather smack the crap out of them than support their right to free speech. You guessed it, the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Supreme Court opinion these stains-upon-humanity birthed, Snyder v. Phelps, was an important one. And that sums up the total social utility of Westboro Baptist Church’s existence. So naturally, seeing a slight tear in the fabric of society which, if rent, could give notoriety to the group’s existence, they’re going for it.

A representative for the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church told USA TODAY that its members plan to picket Saturday outside the funeral for two of the victims of last Sunday’s shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

“It’s not about that person, it’s about that whole societal phenomenon,” Westboro spokesman Steve Drain of Topeka, Kan., said Thursday night in a telephone interview. “It’s never been OK to be gay and it’s never going to be OK to be gay, no matter how much the spirit of the times calls for the popularity of that sin.”

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A NY Senator’s Silence

It wasn’t long after my buddy was elected to office that we had a beer and talked about what was happening in Albany, or as I put it, “why are they (note that I left him out, as I didn’t want to be offensive) totally nuts?”  He started to give me a party-line answer, because the first thing you learn when you get elected is which side your bread is buttered on, but then, as I looked at him with those eyes that said, “are you really gonna try to feed your old pal this line of bullshit,” changed his tune.

They don’t know and they don’t care.

Huh? What don’t they know? Why don’t they care? “The Constitution,” he replied.  This conversation happened when beers were a buck, but I’ve never forgotten it. There was much more to it, but this isn’t a post about my epiphany, but about New York Senator Jack Martins (R-Nassau County), who is backing up Governor Andy’s effort to silence the dumbasses who hate Israel.  And, as long as Martins is at it, get rid of whatever other speech he doesn’t like.

Adam Steinbaugh at FIRE gives the rundown of Martins’ really bright idea. Continue reading

An Imperfect Solution

During an interesting exchange on the twitters, I was tested by the New York Times’ Jesse Wegman to come up with a solution to the gun epidemic.  His challenge began with a quasi-snarky twit:

After explaining that I was anything but the “arbiter of common sense,” a misapprehension of my view that “common sense” is what people (or newspapers) use to avoid the real labor of thinking,  I went on to challenge the underlying premise of his question.

It’s not that we don’t want solutions, but learn that law never provides a perfect answer to all harms humans create.

This provoked the response from Jesse, “No one is claiming there is a perfect answer,” a good parry to the absolutist word “perfect.” But then came the riposte: Continue reading

Fault Lines: A Few Federal Judges and You?

It’s that time again, as Fault Lines is looking to expand its writers to continue to bring in diverse views of the system. Fault Lines has the most remarkable, most experienced, most knowledgeable corps of writers on criminal law on the internet. But we’re greedy. We want more.

Who? We want academics with a sense of humor. We want cops, cop union lawyers, prosecutors. We want judicial clerks. We want defense lawyers. We want males, females, and any other letter of the alphabet. We want blacks, whites, browns, greens and purples. We want all smart, funny, thoughtful legitimate voices.

But what if you’re not yet an experienced lawyer? What if you’re knowledgeable of, and deeply interested in, criminal law, but don’t think you have the resume to offer an experienced perspective? Heck, we want you too. We’ve started the Fault Lines junior varsity team, a place where n00bs can learn and grow under the watchful eye and gentle hand of an old curmudgeonly guy. No tummy rubs, and the demands are hard, but if you have the writing chops, you will get the support you need and the opportunity to go as far as your talent will take you.

Interested? You know where to find me. [email protected]

Gawker Uses Trump’s Hair To Make A First Amendment Point

As a fan of irony (and wrinkly, for you nasty youngsters), there was no question but that I had to write about Gawker’s follow-up post to the critically important question of whether Donald Trump’s hair was a weave.  What makes this too deliciously ironic to pass up?  It is the quintessence of both sides of the Gawker Dilemma.

On the one hand, Gawker has demonstrated that its position in the media is to be trivial, unserious, salacious and . . . no, that covers it. If those who hate Gawker for being Gawker, and ripped it a new asshole for airing content that millions of people want to see, and millions feel is “inappropriate” because they conflate their sensibilities with law, needed validation, you just handed it to them on a silver platter. Because Trump’s hair matters?

We all laugh at his hair. We’ve been laughing at his hair for a long time. But it’s just funny. We can all see his hair without you, Gawker. If this is what you call investigative reporting, then you’re the joke your haters claim you are. Was that what you were trying to prove, that you are the asshole of journalism? Well done, then.

But then came the letter. Continue reading

To Repeal An Amendment

David Cohen* makes an emotional argument for why it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.  It opens curiously, with an appeal to authority.

I teach the Constitution for a living.

Except he doesn’t exactly teach the Constitution for a living. Rather, according to his own description, he “explores the intersection of constitutional law and gender, emphasizing sex segregation, masculinity, and violence against abortion providers.”

This doesn’t mean he isn’t knowledgeable about the Constitution, but starting with a misrepresentation is troubling.  Obviously, he says this to establish his bona fides to make the argument that follows. Is being a lawprof with an agenda inadequate? Perhaps, as there is no necessary nexus between advocate and legal competency, but claiming to be something you are not does little to establish knowledge except to those unaware of the deception. That makes this false assertion divisive.

I revere the document when it is used to further social justice and make our country a more inclusive one.

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When @EFF Is Needed Most, There’s Nate Cardozo

At a time when government seeks nothing more than to infiltrate our digital world without any impediment, a group that will stand up and fight against the government where individuals cannot is critical.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the EFF, is such a group.

Its motto is “defending your rights in a digital world.” This is certainly a digital world, and we could certainly use someone defending our rights. Like any cause group, we may not always agree with its positions, but we can appreciate that it exists and resists the government’s efforts.

Which makes this all the more sad, because the significance is two-fold. The first is that groups are great, but their efforts are in the hands of the person entrusted with the protection of our rights. The second is the need to believe that the group stands for the cause it claims to stand for, and its mission is embraced by those who serve in the group’s name.   Continue reading

Hate Guns Enough And Any Argument Makes Sense (Update)

In response to the mass murder in Orlando, muskets were eliminated from the performance of Hamilton at the Tony awards.  Whether this made a difference or was merely an opportune gesture of support is unclear. But whoever made the decision was entitled to do so. That muskets were part of the birth of a nation, that Hamilton was killed by a gun shot by Aaron Burr in a duel, however, is historical fact. Optics can’t change history, even if feelings are at risk.

The New York Times has been a desperate supporter of gun control, and after every tragedy where a gun is used, promotes its position. Like the Hamilton folks, it’s entitled to its position. That the editorial board is sincere in its belief that guns are an epidemic that must be stopped is beyond question. Having discussed this with some folks there, I know them to be sincere and passionate, all with the best of intentions.

But to reach the overarching goal of limiting, if not eradicating guns, there is a willingness to turn a blind eye to reason and law. Worse still, they are prepared to sacrifice other rights to curtail the hated Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The sacrifice of rights that aren’t on the front burner for those that are has become a fairly common theme at a time when critical thought has given way to the strongest feeling of the moment. Continue reading

The Price of Protection For An Underage Oakland Prostitute

The official reason for Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent’s resignation was “personal reasons.”  Personal? Well, that’s an understatement.

At this morning’s press conference announcing the departure of Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent, Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth told a room full of reporters that Whent was resigning for “personal reasons.” The mayor said it had nothing to do with a scandal involving rookie police officers who sexually exploited a minor, or the suspicious death of a police officer’s wife and his subsequent suicide.

“I’m extremely angry about the alleged misconduct in this department,” Schaaf said.

In the scheme of things that are expected of a mayor, extreme anger doesn’t make the list. How about competent management? How about knowing what’s going on within your administration? How about not having your cops on the public dole engaging in crime, in a protection scheme, and with a 17-year-old girl?

Celeste Guap was a prostitute in East Oakland, who was saved by a cop when her pimp chased her down the street. Good cop? Bad cop. Continue reading

Cuomo At The Social Justice Intersection

New York Governor Andy Cuomo was the darling of the social justice warriors when, by executive fiat, he imposed affirmative consent on the state college campuses.  That he did so in lieu of law, by executive order, disturbed them not in the least. Cuomo issued another executive order, and this time it’s gotten their panties in a twist. What’s different?

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York ordered agencies under his control on Sunday to divest themselves of companies and organizations aligned with a Palestinian-backed boycott movement against Israel.

Wading into a delicate international issue, Mr. Cuomo set executive-branch and other state entities in opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or B.D.S., which has grown in popularity in some quarters of the United States and elsewhere, alarming Jewish leaders who fear its toll on Israel’s international image and economy.

The B.D.S. movement is relatively unknown outside of academia. It’s one of the generic irrational choices made by SJWs, wrapped up under the category of “justice,” because the clueless but deeply passionate, for reasons unknown, have decided that their team should be on the side of the Palestinians and against Israel.  As with almost all SJW ideas of justice, it’s all passion, no thought. Continue reading

He Quit Twitter (And You Can Too!)

Note: Yes, another twitter post, but it’s not my fault (of course it is; no one makes me write about something I don’t want to write about, but since everyone makes excuses about how their volitional acts these days aren’t their fault, why not me?).

The New York Times Washington Deputy Bureau Chief, Jonathan Weisman, explains his decision to leave the twitters, and his 35,000 followers, behind.

The beginning of my end with Twitter came with both a frowny face emoticon from Ari Isaacman Bevacqua, one of The Times’s audience development experts, and a boilerplate email from Twitter:

“We reviewed the account and content reported and are unable to take action given that we could not determine a clear violation of the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules) surrounding abusive behavior.”

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Magnitudes of Pain And The Third-Party Doctrine

It’s painful to pass up an opportunity to slam the Drug Enforcement Agency for overreach, for impropriety, for ignoring the constitutional rights of Americans.  But then, how can it be blamed when mindless newspaper editorials cry sad tears? How can the DEA be blamed for doing what the law allows?  Damn, this hurts.

Christopher Moraff writes about the DEA’s latest dive into people’s private lives.

The DEA has claimed for years that under federal law it has the authority to access [Oregon’s] Prescription Drug Monitor Program database using only an “administrative subpoena.” These are unilaterally issued orders that do not require a showing of probable cause before a court, like what’s required to obtain a warrant.

Oregon has fought the DEA’s efforts, and won in the district court.  Continue reading