Category: There Oughtta Be a Law

About Those Thoughtful, Careful Legislators

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

From a Washington Post article about Caylee’s Law:

[Michelle] Crowder said in a phone interview that she had not spoken to any law enforcement officials before coming up with the proposal — she relied on a quick Google search and the belief that lawmakers would look into the details.

This was a frequent response to my Huffington Post piece as well. Sure, the law may be flawed. But we can count on our careful, thoughtful lawmakers to sort out the details. That’s democracy!

Here in Tennessee, the Caylee’s Law bill is sponsored by state Sen. Bill Ketron. Here’s what Ketron wrote on Twitter yesterday:

Ketron didn’t Tweet, “I look forward to holding hearings on whether or not such a law is necessary in Tennessee.” No, he wants to get this done “quickly,” while outrage over the Casey Anthony verdict is still hot. And, presumably, while he can still claim the mantle of the politician who “speaks for children who can’t speak for themselves” or some similar self-aggrandizing nonsense.

And Ketron has a history of negligent lawmaking. A few highlights:

  • He introduced an immigration bill that would make Arizona look like a sanctuary state. Ketron’s bill would require Tennessee law enforcement to demand papers from anyone they stop who looks or sounds “foreign”,  regardless of whether any laws were broken. It would also allow any resident of Tennessee to sue any government official they believe is inadequately enforcing the law.
  • Ketron’s “Cyber Bullying” law has on-point lessons to Caylee’s Law. Ketron introduced the bill after hearing a story in Texas about a mother who tormented one of her daughter’s rivals for the cheerleading team until the rival killed herself. The problem? Ketron’s bill, which is now law in Tennessee, makes it a felony to post any image online that causes “emotional distress” to anyone else. It is clearly unconstitutional.
  • Ketron also introduced Tennessee’s asinine, headline-grabbing bill that would make it a felony to “practice Sharia law” in the state. Ketron later had to rewrite the bill when it became clear that hadn’t the slightest idea what “Sharia law” actually means. (The bulk of the bill was written by a guy who thinks there’s merit in denying blacks and women the right to vote.)

By the way, Ketron isn’t on the fringes of Tennessee politics. He heads up the state senate’s GOP caucus.

If your plan is to rely on politicians to “sort out the details” and temper the hysteria with calm, thoughtful legislating, you’re making a huge mistake.

Me on Your Screen

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

I chatted with Alyona Minkovski about “Caylee’s Law” yesterday. Here’s the video.

“Caylee’s Law” Is a Bad Idea

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I have a new piece up at Huffington Post explaining why.

We really need to stop naming laws after dead kids.

Does Michelle Obama Know About This?

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Oak Park, Michigan:

Their front yard was torn up after replacing a sewer line, so instead of replacing the dirt with grass, one Oak Park woman put in a vegetable garden and now the city is seeing green.

The list goes on: fresh basil, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cumbers and more all filling five large planter boxes that fill the Bass family’s front yard.

Julie Bass says, “We thought we’re minding our own business, doing something not ostentatious and certainly not obnoxious or nothing that is a blight on the neighborhood, so we didn’t think people would care very much.”

But some cared very much and called the city. The city then sent out code enforcement.

“They warned us at first that we had to move the vegetables from the front, that no vegetables were allowed in the front yard. We didn’t move them because we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, even according to city code we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. So they ticketed us and charged me with a misdemeanor,” Bass said . . .

City code says that all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or other suitable live plant material. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are what Basses see as suitable.

However, Oak Park’s Planning and Technology Director Kevin Rulkowski says the city disagrees. He says, “If you look at the dictionary, suitable means common. You can look all throughout the city and you’ll never find another vegetable garden that consumes the entire front yard.”

So what is suitable? From another local news report:

 . . .  we asked Rulkowski why it’s not suitable.

“If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster’s dictionary, it will say common. So, if you look around and you look in any other community, what’s common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers,” he said.

God forbid your yard doesn’t include beautiful trees, bushes and flowers. It’s your job, Oak Park citizens, to give Kevin Rulkowski pretty things to look at. According to Bass’s blog, she’s demanding her right to a jury trial. So the city plans to throw the book at her.

our attorney spoke to the prosecutor today. (for the record, my crush on him is totally finished after today.)

his position: they are going to take this all the way.

officially, this means i am facing 93 days in jail if they win.

no joke.


Morning Links

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Afternoon Links

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Independence Day Links

Monday, July 4th, 2011
  • Tennessee legislature takes on the dangerous threat posed by raunchy bumper stickers.
  • LAPD L.A. Sheriff’s Department to stop suspending cops who “have used excessive force, driven while intoxicated, falsely imprisoned people or committed other serious misconduct.” Instead, they’ll now get a stern warning.
  • Speaking of L.A., the city will settle with the family of a teen shot and killed by an LAPD cop after video evidence shows the cop lied about the incident. It’s the second time video has contradicted his testimony. Yes, the cop is still on active duty.
  • Really fantastic ProPublica investigation into how the criminal justice system handles the deaths of children. Answer: Not very well.

Late Morning Links

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Afternoon Links

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Weekend Catching-Up Links

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Linkable stuff that piled up while I was away . . .

  • This is an unfortunate death, but it’s absurd that prosecutors would even consider charging the woman once they knew the story. And of course we can’t have an unfortunate death without the suggestion of an absurd, ill-considered law to “ensure this never happens again.”*
  • Obama graciously grants eight lame pardons.
  • I don’t find the Westboro Baptist Church worthy of much attention, mostly because that’s what they want. But this is pretty great.
  • Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes speaks out on the treatment of Bradley Manning.
  • Meta-Reddit.
  • DOJ announces says it will not pursue federal civil rights charges against the police officers who severely beat Pittsburgh music student Jordan Miles after mistaking a Mountain Dew bottle in his pocket for a gun. I wrote about the case here.
  • The BBC visits a Miami jail and finds some pretty horrendous conditions.
  • Utah makes it illegal to act sexy.
  • Sounds like a plan.
  • Very suspicious police shooting death after a traffic stop in Cobb County, Georgia.

* I overlooked the portion of the article alleging that those attending the party delayed seeking medical attention in order to usher out underage drinkers and settle on a story. If those are allegations are true, then some criminal charges are appropriate. I was referring specifically to the punch that instigated it all.

Teenaged Boy Arrested for Distributing Girl-Ranking List; Is Being a Colossal Jerk Actually Illegal?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

A 17-year-old boy was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in Oak Park, IL this week. His alleged crime? Creating and distributing a raunchy, offensive “girl ranking” list, otherwise known as “blatant jackassery.” This story made the rounds earlier this year, and his classmates say he’s previously been expelled for a similar stunt, but now the police are getting involved.

Jackassery aside, the kid, who has not been identified because he’s a minor (he should count his lucky stars), allegedly created and distributed a list ranking 50 high school girls by facial appearance, various body parts, and supposed sexual prowess. The list also reportedly included racial and ethnic slurs, and undoubtedly clever titles for each girl like “the Fallen Angel” or “the Hangover.” Witnesses claim that, after handing out paper copies of his list, he gave an impromptu speech in front of a group of boys, crowing “women are the future, unless we stop them.” In an utterly unsurprising culmination of events, the list ended up on Facebook (sounds familiar, right?). Oak Park police have charged him with disorderly conduct and have passed his case onto juvenile court.

Obviously, this boy is a repugnant little SOB who deserves to have the sense knocked out of him on a daily basis in prison or wherever his sorry ass lands in life. But criminal charges? Distributing fliers in school I suppose could be considered misdemeanor disorderly conduct, but I assume a good attorney could have this charge thrown out in court. Don’t the defamed students have recourse through a civil suit? Are the police just using disorderly conduct as a bludgeon towards a kid who said something unpopular? What free speech issues does this raise?

It sounds to me like this guy isn’t the brightest crayon in the box. He may be a plucky, audacious punk now, but a bright future of meth addiction and child support payments likely awaits him. If I were one of these girls, I’d be very tempted to “leak” the guy’s name and photo to Gawker, and let the internet’s collective snark decide his ranking. Then I’d wish him luck in ever again finding a women who’d be willing to touch him.


Addendum: Let’s just get the inevitable comparisons to Karen Owen and her Duke University F-list out of the way now: She was a jerk, too, and anyone who Googles her name now knows it.

On Maine’s “Visual Sexual Aggression” Bill

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Update (5/10/11): Apparently, I dropped the ball, neglected to do the legwork, failed to RTFM on this story. This story was passed along to me by a friend late yesterday afternoon, and in my hurry to get a post up and get out of the office, I didn’t notice that the article was 3 years old. The friend who sent it along pulled the link from a post at BoingBoing, which has also been removed as of this writing. A thousand apologies for this oversight. #LessonLearned


Readers in Maine, look out: peering at a child could land you on the wrong side of a anti-child predator law. Rep. Dawn Hill is championing a bill that would make “visual sexual aggression” (whatever the hell that means) an offense for viewing children in a public place.

The bill was prompted by the admittedly-creepy story of a guy watching children enter and exit a public restroom.

Her involvement started when Ogunquit Police Lt. David Alexander was called to a local beach to deal with a man who appeared to be observing children entering the community bathrooms. Because the state statute prevents arrests for visual sexual aggression of a child in a public place, Alexander said he and his fellow officer could only ask the man to move along.
“There was no violation of law that we could enforce. There was nothing we could charge him with,” Alexander said.

He attended a talk with Hill a week later and brought the case to her attention. Hill pledged to do what she could, Alexander said, and the result was a change through the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in the House, which made the law applicable in both private and public places.

Hill said she believes the move was necessary to correct what she called a “loophole” in the state’s criminal law statutes.

Is visual sexual aggression really a thing? Like, a thing that police can arrest you for? How do they define it? Is it a gaze lasting more than 3.2 seconds?  Or is it one of those “you know it when you see it” kind of laws that’s left entirely up to the officers to define and enforce?

Listen: being a creeper is not illegal as long as you aren’t actually harming anyone. I don’t like what may be playing out in that guy’s head, and if he ever made even the slightest gesture that indicated harm to a child or anyone else, I’d be the first person to punch him in the windpipe (figuratively speaking). Protecting children from actual harm should be the police’s job, not harassing Boo Radley because he makes the locals uncomfortable. I get that it sucks when the presence of creepers makes going to the beach or the pool less fun. But the answer to dealing with the few creeps out there is not to pass another vague law that could apply to anyone and for which the definition is determined by the arresting officer. This could easily turn into a law against irritating a cop while in close proximity to a public restroom.



“What are you, deaf?”

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Two men were attacked in a bar for flashing signs. Not gang signs. Sign language, according to the AP:  “Two hearing-impaired South Florida men were stabbed at a bar when their sign language was mistaken for gang signs.” Man… I didn’t stab them till after I told them to stop. What?! I did. They wouldn’t listen.

There should be an award for such criminal stupidity. Not a standard Darwin Award, but something for idiots who demonstrate not only that they can hate and hurt, but even, by their own demented standards, hate the wrong stranger.

Reminds me of an old joke (or is it a movie line?) my dad liked to tell in which a Jew and a non-Jew are being taken away on the train to Auschwitz. The Jew says, “What a tragedy.” The goy replies, “For you it’s a tragedy. For me it’s a mistake!”

[– Peter Moskos]

Morning Links

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Morning Links

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011