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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Long Live and Prosper"

Leonard Nimoy had a long career, on both sides on the camera (he directed the third and fourth Star Trek movies, the fourth particularly fun, but also other films). I have seen some of the films he directed and also believe I saw him in In Search Of, the documentary series. But, mostly think of him as "Spock." He discusses the Vulcan salute here. LLAP. He did so.

Friday, February 27, 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy

"Framing Suzanne Mazzola’s Death in Childbirth as a Martyrdom Is Disturbing and Dangerous"

There are various accounts of this tragic story and this one (I commented too) is particularly wary about using her as a martyr. It's unclear when she knew her pregnancy was dangerous or what sort of risk she took. Or, her true feelings. But, some do take risks here and it's their choice. Hopefully, they will act with enough insight, but we know that is often not the case. "Choice" itself often is a sliding scale involving things like social pressure and fiscal means.

"Can life in prison be worse than death" ... for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?

One of the few posts in this blog that got a few hits over the years was one on the question of life imprisonment being worse than the death penalty. This came to mind after the subject question was posed elsewhere. Someone actually involved in defending those on death row added his .02. But, perhaps mine own is worth something as well:
I do think life can be worse than death -- support of euthanasia shows that.

Solitary confinement is a special factor here, but I don't think the average person who is in prison for decades has it very easy either. Especially for some, long prison terms can be very hard, leading to mental problems and as seen by a recent post, things like rape or other abuses. So, the argument proves too much on some level.

It would seem that many in prison for time years have it harder than some of the "worse of the worst," since some of the latter are executed after a certain amount of time & in various cases reside in arguably better (see the sexual offender post) conditions before they do. But, we don't want to increase executions for robbery to ease the treatment of these people. So, execution doesn't seem to be the answer.

But, it does remain true that being in prison can be worse than death. This suggests those who think "abolitionists" are softies are a tad misguided. Those confined, such as the murderer in the American Sniper case, still are treated as persons, with interests and a chance to be redeemed in some fashion. They might get out at some point. And, if there was a mistake, they will be still around when it is determined. And, most on death row don't "volunteer" and end all appeals.
I'd add that Tsarnaev is a special "worse of the worst" case for which the death penalty seems a tad less horrible than a case like the murder for insurance that resulted in the woman in Georgia whose execution was held up for a least a bit. Seems a special reason to execute here though even here there are practical  problems. Timothy McVeigh, who murdered many more people, was eventually executed, but this is going to be a long drawn out affair.  The death penalty is not likely to be a threat that would help confessions or guilty pleas too much -- the person who this did seems the sort who would want the publicity of a trial. And, he's no kid, but someone who murders at around twenty still can be immature. 

But, ultimately, killing people is wrong when not required by necessity or personal choice in respect to euthanasia, especially when it is carried out in the problematic way as this nation's death penalty is. I'm willing to rest on this, and at the end of the day, it is what one should rest on in some cases at least.  Not everyone on death row are the "worse of the worst," but some pretty much are.  Citing some sort of "leniency" argument for the death penalty doesn't really work though it can help the defendant's side, partially since it has some bite.

Anyway, other than those sentenced to die being able to opt out of further appeals, and some limited appeals and related oversight should be present whether a defendant wants it or not, this isn't euthanasia either. People don't quite choose whether or not to be sentenced to death. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shahar v. Bowers

I mentioned this case in my summary comment yesterday that noted that the former attorney general (the "Bowers" of Bowers v. Hardwick*) has come out against a "religious freedom" law that (memo in the article cited) he shows is an invitation to discriminate. Such laws are more "religious freedom for some" laws as seen when hypos involving racial discrimination arise. Those truly concerned about religious liberty should care about this. We need push them or call them out as phonies.

Anyway, the case was cited because it will be mostly forgotten (the article cited with his comments included) in the coverage with Bowers being the focus. The link in the footnote provides some background and shows that even in 2001, Bowers didn't want to rest on his laurels -- he argued then that he was simply defending the law, which was his job. The case itself arose out of unusual facts -- police don't usually have a chance to see the sex act performed in person except in cases of public sex -- but there is clear evidence that Hardwick was particularly targeted for being gay. This underlines how discriminatory these laws are, even if facially neutral.

Thus, it wasn't really just a "test case" involving someone who never was ultimately convicted of the act though many (including Justice Powell) saw it that way.  Still, Robin Shahar as staff attorney (she eventually got another government position elsewhere) had a more tangible case -- she lost a job after Michael Bowers found out she has a private religious same sex marriage ceremony. She made a claim on equal protection, intimate association and free exercise grounds but lost when her case went en banc. It came out that Michael Bowers himself was having an extramarital sexual affair -- illegal in Georgia -- but this did not help her legal case in the end.

The case developed through the 1990s, eventually ending up being decided after Romer v. Evans. But, the appeals court ultimately rested on the grounds that public employment sets up a balancing test that the government met.  Her marriage ceremony was a "disruption" to the office and the public might assume she was breaking sodomy laws (which the state supreme court soon struck down in 1998).  The appeals court was strongly divided, strong dissents citing her various claims. This article provides some background and argues the marriage also could be protected as a "speech act," an expression of her status and union.  

"Shahar" itself was a new name the couple gave to themselves -- it means "seeking God" and is a reflection of their Jewish faith.  The marriage ceremony was in 1991.  Same sex marriages were not just something that arose in the last few years. This case shows the various aspects of marriage, including its religious, associative and expressive aspects. The treatment of Robin Shahar also shows the illicit discrimination involved. Why was she fired?  Breaking the law? Really?  Did people known to have sex outside of marriage not get hired?  Fornication was not legal.  And, as the article cited (and the one cited yestersay) discusses, she wasn't purporting the "marriage" was official or making some grand activist statement. 

The important rights at stake here set up a balance that should have gone her way. Luckily, though one should not be surprised if a same sex marriage still led to negative reactions at the work place (especially with so many states not having anti-discrimination protections here), the intimate association rights of same sex couples have much greater constitutional protection today after Lawrence v. Texas.  But, we still have some ways to go and this case should be kept in mind, especially with MB in the news.

[One more thing: There is a reasonable case to be made that Bowers was just doing his job back in the early 1980s defending the sodomy law. There was a policy not to prosecute such cases and Hardwick was not prosecuted, a thing Justice Stevens cited to note the weak grounds of the law.  But, someone did lose her job here and it wasn't "just his job" to do that.  So, Bowers has more to answer for this matter.] 


 * "Michael Hardwick cannot reflect on the case that bears his name: He died in Gainesville, Fla., on June 13, 1991, reportedly from complications from AIDS. His obituary did not mention either his sexual orientation or his role in challenging the sodomy law." 

Health is at times cited as a reason to be against same sex relations, but it was not the argument put forth by either Georgia or Texas in the cases that  reached the Supreme Court. The laws rests on "morals" and have a sex discrimination component at that. Lesbians have the safest sex.  Bans also generally, as here, make risky behaviors more so.  

And, this interest is at best a bad fit, many unsafe behaviors not included.  For instance, the issue of public sex was noted above. That is seen more here since same sex behavior is looked on with disfavor and (more so in the past when it was often illegal) something that had to be done on the sly. This led to unsafe sex on a regular basis, including in parks or restrooms.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Michael Bowers Now Supports Gay Rights?

The "Bowers" of the infamous Bowers v. Hardwick anti-gay rights case is now strongly against a "religious freedom" bill that he sees as an "excuse to discriminate." Let us not forget another case, where he hypocritically took back a job offer after finding out the woman had a private religious same sex marriage ceremony. She too is still around in the public eye.

"One Justice, Two Justice, Red Justice, Blue Justice: What Congress Should Learn from Dr. Seuss about Writing Statutes."

Strange match-up in the "fish case" with Alito (former prosecutor for the defendant here) splitting the difference in this "close" case and Kagan with a "super-snarky dissent" joined by Thomas, Kennedy and Scalia (first time ever?). Some of her remarks seem tailored-made for the King case. On merits, especially since this isn't an 8A case (guy got thirty days, whatever the statute leaves open), I still am with the government. Still, open to majority position.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

“Originalist or Original: The Difficulties of Reconciling Citizens United with Corporate Law History"

This interesting article was raised/commented on in this thread. One thing that both flags is that current reality, including SCOTUS views, of corporations has changed as that institution has greatly developed over the last two hundred years. A few basic things might have remained the same at best. Ultimately, the article answers Scalia perhaps, but the "right" answer requires more for the non-originalist or an originalist living in current times.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscars Films: My Views

Saw parts of Ida (foreign film) and Boyhood (can see the talent, but bored after a short time for what seems like basic family drama nearly three hours). Overall liked Wild and Into the Woods. Begin Again (song nominated) was a bit of a mess. The Lego Movie (another song) looks like it would work as a short. Might watch or read a book based on a few more, but not really excited about most of them. BTW, nice to see JK Simmons, Mr. Supporting Actor, won.

Oscars: Quick Recap

An article on a troubling Selma copyright issue. Have seen few of the films nominated & have not been as up on the Oscars in recent years. But, from what I saw, including a fun musical intro, some quirky presentations/speeches and Lady Gaga looking almost "normal" honoring Sound of Music, looked pretty good. Selma song too. Patricia Arquette (the one Boyhood win) fit in some social stuff in a long acceptance speech. Best Actor win a bit of a surprise. ETA: Overall, Oscars often start well & then amount to some gems in three hours of remainder.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Movie Quickies

Contracted "could have been excellent," but too much stupid. Didn't watch the last 20 minutes. Peacock was well cast and had an intriguing premise regarding sexual identity, small town psychology etc. But, not only was lack of lightening in many scenes annoying, it was pretty dull. And, looking into it online, the "reveal" is pretty depressing and takes away from the interesting aspects of the film. Monolith Monsters was a fun 1950s thriller.