Grandma goes to jail for slapping cussing granddaughter in Florida.

In what is sure to be painted by the religious far right as another sign of how America is going to hell in a hand basket, 73-year-old Theresa Collier was arrested in Florida for slapping her potty mouthed granddaughter:

Collier says she invited her 18-year-old granddaughter, Felicia Collier, to her house so she could use her computer to do homework.

Felicia is finishing her senior year online after getting kicked out of Catholic school in Massachusetts, Collier explained.

“She said F-off to a nun!  I would just crawl into a hole,” said Collier.

On Tuesday, the newly turned 18-year-old did not want to obey her commands to complete her assignments.

“She kept repeating the F-word to me, about the whole family.  She just went on and on and I just got so upset, I got up and slapped her across the face,” she told 10 Connects, “She grabbed my wrists and I couldn’t get out of it and she let one go and she punched me in the cheek here.”

Sounds like Grandma and her granddaughter didn’t spend much time together as it was. She seems to be somewhat surprised by the girl’s actions so that suggests she doesn’t really know her.

Anyway, the granddaughter called police who showed up and promptly arrested the Grandmother for battery despite the young woman pleading with them not to do so and she spent the next 24 hours in jail.

“I went to medical, they take my blood pressure, it was sky high and he says, my God!  And I said, ‘Can you blame my blood pressure?’ ” said Collier.

“My wife of 52 years went to Catholic Parochial school, went to church, she’s a good strong Catholic and raised four kids and no one ever spoke to her like that,” said her husband, Walter Collier.

Well, someone has spoken to her like that now. I suggest she either gets used to it, learns to restrain her slappy impulse, or doesn’t hang out in Florida too much.

Because as it turns out, dear Grandma is a victim of the rule of unintended consequences. Here, I’ll let the police explain:

While Collier’s arrest seems out of line, under the law, a battery was committed.

“Legally she’s 18-years-old, so while I understand the difference between corporal punishment on a child, disciplining your child for using poor language, this is an 18-year-old child,” said Lt. Mike Loux, with the Largo Police Department.

Lt. Loux says his department has a mandatory arrest policy when it comes to domestic violence calls, so someone had to go to jail.

“If an officer on scene finds probable cause to arrest a person, because they’ve committed domestic battery, then our policy is a mandatory arrest of that person,” said Lt. Loux, “The discretion does not come because the victim does not want to prosecute.  It doesn’t come because the victim has remorse for calling police.”

In short, the kid isn’t a kid as far as the law is concerned and if you go around slapping adults you can and will be charged with battery and if it looks even remotely like domestic abuse in Florida that particular police department will haul your ass in and charge you. It’s that whole zero-tolerance policy showing what a bad idea it is once again. The police don’t have the option of discretion without violating the policy and the unwillingness of the victim to press charges is not enough to keep them from being applied. Which makes sense as it’s often the case in domestic abuse situations that the victims are unwilling to press charges.

The article appears to be painting this as an example of the police overreacting to a spoiled brat getting what she deserves, but if you look at it logically it went down the way it was supposed to when you take the power of discretion away from the police. It’s a reminder that it’s important to consider the rules and laws you set up before you enact them.

Should Grandma have the right to slap a mouthy grandchild? Lots of people seem to think so, but in this day and age of greater awareness of domestic abuse you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you do. Best not to associate with them if you don’t like their attitude.

Judge asks Prop 8 lawyer to explain what threat gay marriage poses to conventional marriage.

I’m definitely liking the way the trial in California to determine the constitutionality of the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage is going. It seems the judge is challenging the Prop 8 lawyer to define the harm from gays getting married:

The unusual exchange between U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker and Charles Cooper, a lawyer for the group that sponsored Proposition 8, came during a hearing on a lawsuit challenging the measure as discriminatory under the U.S. Constitution.

Cooper had asked Walker to throw out the suit or make it more difficult for those civil rights claims to prevail.

The judge not only refused but signaled that when the case goes to trial in January, he expects Cooper and his legal team to present evidence showing that male-female marriages would be undermined if same-sex marriages were legal.

The question is relevant to the assertion that Proposition 8 is constitutionally valid because it furthers the states goal of fostering “naturally procreative relationships,” Walker explained.

“What is the harm to the procreation purpose you outlined of allowing same-sex couples to get married?” Walker asked.

“My answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know,” Cooper answered.

Ooooo, bad answer! That one had to hurt.

But don’t count the Prop 8 folks out just yet. The lawyer managed to recover enough to offer the following justification for the ban:

Moment later, after assuring the judge his response did not mean Proposition 8 was doomed to be struck down, Cooper tried to clarify his position. The relevant question was not whether there is proof that same-sex unions jeopardize marriages between men and women, but whether “the state is entitled, when dealing with radical proposals to make changes to bedrock institutions such as this … to take a wait and see attitude,” he said.

“There are things we can’t know, that’s my point,” Cooper said. “The people of California are entitled to step back and let the experiment unfold in Massachusetts and other places, to see whether our concerns about the health of marital unions have either been confirmed or perhaps they have been completely assuaged.”

In other words, the majority should have the option of suppressing your civil rights until such time that they feel other people someplace else have established there’s no harm in letting you have them.

Yeah, the Judge wasn’t having any of that:

Walker pressed on, asking again for specific “adverse consequences” that could follow expanding marriage to include same-sex couples. Cooper cited a study from the Netherlands, where gay marriage is legal, showing that straight couples were increasingly opting to become domestic partners instead of getting married.

“Has that been harmful to children in the Netherlands? What is the adverse effect?” Walker asked.

Cooper said he did not have the facts at hand.

Again he comes up short and, yet again, he manages to rally:

“But it is not self-evident that there is no chance of any harm, and the people of California are entitled not to take the risk,” he said.

“Since when do Constitutional rights rest on the proof of no harm?” Walker parried, adding the First Amendment right to free speech protects activities that many find offensive, “but we tolerate those in a free society

I like this judge. I like him a lot. I’ve been waiting for someone to make that argument for years. I wasn’t particularly optimistic that a challenged to Prop 8’s constitutionality would have a snowball’s chance in Hell of working, but suddenly the odds seem a lot better. The judge goes on to give even more reason to be optimistic:

Walker made clear that he wants to examine other issues that are part of the political rhetoric surrounding same-sex marriage but rarely surface in courtrooms. Among the questions he plans to entertain at the trial are whether sexual orientation is a fixed or immutable characteristic, whether gays are a politically powerful group, and if same-sex marriage bans such as Proposition 8 were motivated by anti-gay bias.

Excellent! It’s about fucking time someone challenged these assertions in a court of law. Make those assholes put up or shut up.

Of course there’s a chance the Prop 8 folks may prevail, but at least their claims are being questioned this time out and there’s some good reason to hope the ban will be overturned.

Blasphemy Day

Cafe Philos had an interesting article here:

I just heard the news that the Center for Inquiry and its sister organization,  the Council for Secular Humanism, have teamed up to sponsor a Blasphemy Day this September 30th. Before you yawn, consider they probably mean well.

Time was when blasphemy was a crime and a blasphemy day might have been a wake up slap to the powers that be.   Back then, setting aside a day to blaspheme might have accomplished something. But today? Isn’t every school kid a blasphemer these days?

At least, those were my first thoughts upon hearing of a Blasphemy Day this year.  I wondered what the point could be.  It’s 2009.  Most days, I’m of the opinion that the Judeo-Christian God — “God” with a capital “G” — is too ridiculous to exist, and that the various more sophisticated gods of the philosophers and theologians are unnecessary to explain anything.  No one is stopping me these days from expressing those opinions, so what could be the point of my going out of my way to blaspheme?

I’m curious.  Any ideas?

The fact that we have the right to blaspheme is so important it can hardly be understated. Unlike most countries in this world, our Freedom of Speech sets us apart from all the chaff. This does not mean that it is appropriate or respectful to blaspheme, just that we have the RIGHT to do so.

From that article I linked to this NYTimes article here:

Back in the fall of 2007, with only the most practical motives in mind, George Kalman took his pen to the standard form for creating a limited liability company in Pennsylvania.

[…] The first line on the document asked Mr. Kalman to supply his chosen corporate name, and he printed it in: I Choose Hell Productions, LLC. In a personal bit of existentialism, Mr. Kalman believed that, even if life was often hellish, it was better than suicide.

A week later, the daily mail to Mr. Kalman’s home in the Philadelphia suburb of Downingtown brought a form letter from the Pennsylvania Department of State. His corporate filing had been rejected, the letter explained, because a business name “may not contain words that constitute blasphemy, profane cursing or swearing or that profane the Lord’s name.”

[…] After a couple more readings, though, Mr. Kalman realized that the rejection was genuine. Pennsylvania, it turned out, indeed had a law against blasphemy. In the short term, Mr. Kalman successfully filed for incorporation as ICH Productions, LLC. In the longer run, he put in a call to the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and set in motion a challenge to the state law.

[…] Pennsylvania’s law may be the most idiosyncratic of all, because it covers only the matter of corporate names. And, rather than being a dusty vestige of the 19th century, it was enacted (and overwhelmingly so) only in 1977. A Democratic legislator, Emil Mrkonic, wrote the bill after a mail-order fire-arms dealer filed incorporation papers for the God Damn Gun Shop.

I love that the recent bill was passed in PA in 1977. And who could fault the business entrepreneur for wanting to name his gun shop as he did in 1977, which caused the bill to be introduced by some Fundie? Should we have the right to blaspheme?

Man arrested for breath mints spends 3 months in jail.

Donald May of Florida was driving home one afternoon when cops pulled him over ostensibly for expired tags and then things went downhill fast:

May was pulled over for an expired tag on his car. When the officer walked up to him, he noticed something white in May’s mouth. May said it was breath mints, but the officer thought it was crack cocaine.

“He took them out of my mouth and put them in a baggy and locked me up [for] possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence,” May explained.

The officer claimed he field-tested the evidence and it tested positive for drugs. The officer said he saw May buying drugs while he was stopped at an intersection. He also stated in his report May waived his Miranda rights and voluntarily admitted to buying drugs.

May said that never happened.

“My client never admitted he purchased crack cocaine. Why would he say that?” attorney Adam Sudbury said.

That’s a pretty good question. It’s also curious that the officer says he saw May buy the drugs when he originally said he pulled him over due to expired tags. Still, it shouldn’t take long for things to get straightened out, right? I mean it was breath mints. That should be pretty easy to establish in short order.

Of course not. Don’t be silly. Most crime labs have a backlog to contend with. So they tossed May in jail, where he was unable to raise bond, so he sat there for three months until the crime lab was able to confirm that the candy was just candy. In the meantime his life went to hell as a result:

“While I was sitting in jail I lost my apartment. I lost everything,” he said.

While May was behind bars, the Kissimmee Police Department towed his car and auctioned it off. He lost his job and was evicted. Now May is suing the city for false arrest and false imprisonment. He wants to be compensated for the loss of his car and job.

In short the Kissimmee Police Department ruined this man’s life over fucking breath mints. This is what the “War on Drugs” has come to. You can be arrested on mere suspicion, held for months until the crime lab gets around to examining your evidence, and the police can happily sell your car while you’re rotting in jail. That last fact galls me to no end. The forfeiture laws in this country are ridiculous. At the very least you should have to be convicted in a court of law before any forfeiture of property to the police is allowed.

According to Scalia there’s nothing wrong with executing an innocent man.

I’d like to think that I have a very well developed sense of fair play and I’ve been told as much over the years. This partially explains why I have no problems with things like capital punishment in cases where the question of guilt is beyond doubt. The problem, of course, is that the question of guilt is rarely beyond doubt so in general I come across as opposed to the death penalty to most people. If there is any question that someone might be innocent of the crime they’re facing the death penalty for then I much prefer to go with life imprisonment because that can be reversed whereas death cannot. That seems a decent trade off to me.

Supreme Court Justice Scalia, however, has a different standard of what’s fair. Not only does he not have a problem with executing what could potentially be an innocent man, he goes as far as to argue that such a death would not be unconstitutional:

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent.  Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.

In short, as far as Scalia is concerned, so long as you are convicted in a full and fair trial then your actual innocence is irrelevant to the question of whether you should be executed. The fact that the courts are intrinsically a human institution and thus are as fallible as the humans that constitute them apparently holds no sway in his mind.

This goes against every instinct of fair play I have. I am literally dumbfounded in the face of that kind of argument. I shouldn’t be as Scalia has said a lot of stupid things in the past that will ensure I celebrate the day he steps down from the Supreme Court, but even for the likes of him that argument is simply stunning.

Idiot mayor thinks baggy pants problem is “bigger than the Constitution.”

You’ve really gotta love it when some asshole who thinks he can do whatever he wants gets elected to office. Assholes like Mayor Frank Melton of Jackson, Mississippi who has taken it upon himself to pull up the pants of Jackson’s youth:

The council members who voted against the saggy-pants ban said it likely was unconstitutional.

But Mayor Frank Melton, who joined the council meeting via telephone from Texas, said he will issue an executive order instituting the dress code.

“I certainly respect the Constitution,” Melton said, “but we have some issues that are much bigger than the Constitution.”

I think the saggy-pants fad is pretty silly myself, but to say it’s bigger than the Constitution is idiotic in the extreme. Does it ever occur to these morons that part of the reason people wear their pants like that is because it pisses off the establishment?

Melton said his executive order will not call on offenders to be put in jail. Instead, he said he envisions police officers taking young men with sagging pants home to their parents to talk about the problem.

Well that’s one way to waste the valuable time and resources of your police department. Up next he’ll have the police washing your mouth out with soap and water if they catch you cussin’.

“I am willing to go to court on this particular issue,” said Melton…

Because I’m a dumbass. But not as big a dumbass as the people who voted me into office!

Fuck South Carolina.

I may soon be a felon in South Carolina as a state senator there wants to outlaw profanity:

South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford (D) has introduced a bill that, essentially, seeks to outlaw profanity.

S.56 would prohibit the public utterance or publication of printed material containing profanity. It would also make it illegal to “exhibit or otherwise make available material containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.”

Any SEB readers who reside in South Carolina could also be felons if they get caught browsing this site if this bill gets passed. Not that I think it would stand up in court as it’s clearly a violation of the First Amendment, but it could be a real pain in the ass until it gets slapped down by the courts.

Clever teens exact revenge by fooling automated speed cameras.

In places where they’ve been deployed the police tend to love anti-speeding cameras that snap a pic of your license plate and mail you a speeding ticket automatically if they catch you speeding. Why wouldn’t they? All the revenue of ticketing drivers without the hassle of actually writing the tickets yourself. Never mind the fact that they may not even realize they’ve been ticketed and thus won’t slow down anytime soon—which is what you really want them to do—hell that’s even better cause it could mean multiple revenue generating tickets!

Problem with automated law enforcement is that so far we’ve yet to invent a machine that’s as clever as a human out for revenge:

As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county’s Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.

[…] Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that “mimic” those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

Gotta admit, that’s pretty fucking clever. Looks like your car and it has your plates, must have been you because no one would be so clever as to fake it, right? Try fighting that one in court.

“This game is very disturbing,” the parent said. “Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.

The parent said that “our civil rights are exploited,” and the entire premise behind the Speed Camera Program is called into question as a result of the growing this fad among students.

[…] “I hope the public at large will complain loudly enough that local Montgomery County government officials will change their policy of using these cameras for monetary gain,” the parent said. “The practice of sending speeding tickets to faceless recipients without any type of verification is unwarranted and an exploitation of our rights.”

Gee, ya think? Perhaps you should try electing people who aren’t willing to turn law enforcement duties over to automated machines that can’t tell the difference between a real license plate and a fake one printed on paper. I’d start with replacing this guy:

Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews said that the issue is troubling in several respects. “I am concerned that someone could get hurt, first of all, because they are speeding in areas where they know speeding is a problem,” he said.

Andrews also said that this could hurt the integrity of the Speed Camera Program. “It will cause potential problems for the Speed Camera Program in terms of the confidence in it,” he said.

He said he is glad someone caught it before it becomes more widespread and he said he hopes that the word get out to the people participating in this that there will be consequences.

Assuming, of course, that you can find some automated way of catching them because it’s clear you don’t want to have any actual policemen monitoring traffic.

Found via J-Walk Blog and ***Dave.

EMPLOYMENT LAW … gone mad?

EMPLOYMENT LAW Is booting up a computer work, or a work break? 

The National Law Journal

Tresa Baldas / Staff reporter
November 17, 2008

Is booting up a computer work, or a work break?

More companies fending off suits on the issue.

It seems just about anything in the workplace can find its way into wage-and-hour litigation.

Case in point: Lawyers are noting a new type of lawsuit, in which employees are suing over time spent booting their computers. “Booting” refers to when someone starts or restarts a computer.

During the past year, several companies, including AT&T Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Cigna Corp., have been hit with lawsuits in which employees claimed that they were not paid for the 15- to 30-minute task of booting their computers at the start of each day and logging out at the end.

Add those minutes up over a week, and hourly employees are losing some serious pay, argues plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark Thierman, a Las Vegas solo practitioner who has filed a handful of computer-booting lawsuits in recent years.

“These are hourly employees who are not making much more than minimum wage,” Thierman said. “There’s a good half-hour a day that they’re not being paid for. It adds up.”

And it’s not as if these employees are sitting there doing nothing while the computer boots up, Thierman said. They’re either starting paperwork, making calls or arranging their calendar while waiting on the computer.

Management-side attorney Richard Rosenblatt, a partner in the Princeton, N.J., office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who is defending a half-dozen employers in computer-booting lawsuits, sees it differently.

He believes that, in most cases, computer booting does not warrant being called work. Having spent time in call centers observing work behaviors, he said most employees boot the computer, then engage in nonwork activities.

“They go have a smoke, talk to friends, get coffee — they’re not working, and all they’ve done at that point is press a button to power up their computer, or enter in a key word,” Rosenblatt said.

But the lawsuits keep rolling in.

In California, hundreds of customer service representatives at call centers are suing Cigna Corp., claiming that they were denied pay for the time spent booting up computers before and logging out after their shifts at the call centers. Hazel v. Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., No. C08-03552 (N.D. Calif.).

In Georgia, AT&T and BellSouth Corp. are also battling computer-booting claims, filed by sales consultants and associates who claim, among other things, that they were denied pay for time spent booting up and shutting down computers before and after their shifts. Brooks v. AT&T, No. 1:07-cv-3054 (N.D. Ga.).

In Missouri, UnitedHealth Group also is battling a proposed collective action that claims it failed to pay employees who work from home for time spent booting up their computers. Wolfert v. UnitedHealth Group Inc., No. 4:08-cv-01643 (D. Mo.).

My initial reaction to this story was sheer amazement at the lengths to which employers would go to try and cut the pay of their employees, but on re-reading the story a couple of points caught my attention:

1) The time stated to booting the computers 15-30 minutes, does seem like a long time.
2) The observation made by Richard Rosenblatt regarding the activities of employees while waiting for the computers to boot, he may well be making a valid point.

With the worsening economic climate in the U.S.A. (and globally) it probably shouldn’t come as such a surprise that some employers look to turn the screws on their employees. 

Why innocent people should never talk to the police.

Saw a couple of really fascinating videos over at Bruce Schneier’s blog by Professor James Duane of the Regent University School of Law about why in a criminal matter you should never ever talk to the police or any other government agent without a lawyer. Guilty or innocent, it doesn’t matter, nothing you say can help you.

Here’s Professor Duane’s video:

Followed by an equally fascinating video featuring George Bruch from the Virginia Beach police department who basically tells you that everything the Professor said is true:

I’m fortunate in that my dealings with the police have been few and very far between. The last encounter was when I unsuccessfully tried to turn left back in November of 2003 and, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have said much to the police, but I did and I was convicted and fined for “failure to yield to oncoming traffic” despite the fact that the people that hit me were running the light. Granted it’s a misdemeanor traffic accident and not a murder trial, but I probably would’ve fared better had I invoked my right to not self-incriminate. I don’t foresee ever being in a position where I’d be under suspicion on more serious charges, but then life is unpredictable so these videos make for some very compelling education just the same.

Bonus points for the repeated lesson that “people are stupid.”