Thursday, March 27, 2014

About the Hobby Lobby Case: A Lawyer's Rant

While I don't hide the fact that I am a lawyer in this blog, I tend to shy away from making legal arguments here because this blog is for fun, and work is. . .well. . .work.  That said, the recent Hobby Lobby case in front of the Supreme Court is the perfect mix of politics, law and hypocrisy to piss me off.  It is also a classic example of why the study of Constitutional law is completely and utterly ludicrous (something any law student can tell you within the first 2 weeks of taking Con Law).

For those of you who don't know, the Hobby Lobby case is this - Hobby Lobby is a closely held corporation owned by deeply "religious" people.  As part of their "deeply held religious beliefs" the owners of Hobby Lobby believe that oral contraceptives (the birth control pill) abort fetuses. ***NOTE*** Birth control pills work by preventing ovulation, thus preventing fertilization. They do abort anything.***

Because of this "deeply held" but mistaken belief, Hobby Lobby does not want its health insurer to pay for birth control pills for its employees. This is a problem because under the Affordable Care Act, insurers are required to pay for birth control pills.  This policy isn't a "let's abort every baby" policy, but rather reflects the fact that VIRTUALLY EVERY WOMAN IN AMERICA (99%) TAKES BIRTH CONTROL PILLS DURING SOME POINT IN THEIR LIVES.  But Hobby Lobby has a "deeply held" belief, and argues that forcing it to pay for birth control pills for its employees violates its constitutional right of religious choice.  So the issue in front of the Supreme Court is whether or not a corporation has the freedom of religion.

Now, we could go into the obvious questions such as how a corporation, by definition a non-person, can have a conscience and make religious decisions.  We could also ask how a corporation can prove that it has such beliefs.  The priests and ministers I know don't have the power to baptize corporate documents.  But those are easy questions to ask.

Instead, let me put forth a hypothesis based on the facts of this case - let's say there was a corporation that was closely held, like Hobby Lobby, but instead of "Christians," let's say the owners of this corporation were Rastafarians. Now, Rastafarianism believes that marijuana use is really important.  Healthy even.  So this company, founded on Rastafarian principles, decides to grow marijuana and sell marijuana to practitioners of Rastafarianism.  Does the fact that this company believes that marijuana is good for you prevent it from prosecution under federal law?

Ah. Hell. No. 

And do you know why? Because marijuana is deemed by Congress to be illegal and is scheduled as an dangerous drug. Now, say what you will about that decision (and I believe marijuana should be legalized), but the legal principle is key here - the Feds would wait about 10 seconds before crushing my hypothetical company.  Every judge, from the District Court, to the Circuit Courts, to the Supreme Court would laugh their asses off at the argument that Congress' laws about marijuana violate the company's freedom of religion because Congress made a factual determination that marijuana is bad for you and should be illegal. Case closed.

But in the Hobby Lobby case, there is a factual finding that birth control pills, which again, ARE TAKEN BY 99% OF ALL WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES AT SOME POINT IN THEIR LIVES, are important to the health and welfare of women, and should be covered by their health insurance, which was also made by Congress, is being challenged. And whereas the ban on marijuana is based on questionable science, the decision to force health insurance companies to cover birth control is based, again, on the undeniable fact that BIRTH CONTROL PILLS ARE AN IMPORTANT TOOL IN WOMEN'S HEALTH

Naturally, the conservatives on the Supreme Court are almost certainly going to vote in favor of Hobby Lobby, despite the fact that Hobby Lobby is a) a corporation; b) its views on the effects of birth control pills on a woman's body are completely wrong; c) its views directly contravene Congressional and/or administrative findings of fact (which are supposed to get deference by the Court); and d) individuals who brought cases to the Supreme Court to kill civil rights legislation, drug testing policies, and other neutral laws all uniformly lost. 

And here is where my rant really begins. The whole "balls and strikes" analogy made by John Roberts in his nomination testimony was bullshit. Not kinda bullshit, not sort of bullshit, but total and complete bullshit. The whole study of Constitutional Law is total and complete bullshit.  And that's because if the study of the Constitutional Law goes any way other than "its whatever the Nine Justices decide," it makes no sense. A decision to uphold Hobby Lobby's "freedom of religion" contravenes Scalia's originalism, contravenes stare decisis (where the Court is supposed to follow its older rulings), is based upon A FALLACIOUS FINDING OF FACT and creates an entirely new right of supposedly nonreligious organizations to have religion. Why? Because they get to. As I said, total and complete bullshit.

Now, I could be wrong. I might be surprised by the Supreme Court Justices, and they might actually do the right thing here.  But I doubt it. And as someone who is supposed to be an officer of the Court, it pisses me off.  Case law is supposed to be more that whatever the hell the Supreme Court says it is. It's supposed to be logical, reasoned, and cautious.  It's supposed to fit together in some kind of homogenized mesh.  But even when it can't be, when the Court has to do something out of the ordinary, the Court is supposed to protect the rights of individuals.  Not individual corporations, but actual living and breathing people, like the women who are going to have to pay for birth control because Hobby Lobby opposes the idea of them. Oh, and because Hobby Lobby opposes birth control, can it now fire employees for using birth control? Or, how about firing all women of child-bearable age who are not currently pregnant because they might be taking birth control? Or can Augusta National now go back to discriminating against women and African Americans because of its "sincerely held beliefs?"

The whole thing is ridiculous, wrong-headed, and bullshit. Total bullshit.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Some Help With Analogies

This past weekend I finally saw "12 Years As a Slave," an incredible movie about America's original sin (as Obama likes to call it), and one of those movies that had to win Best Picture (which it did).  If anything, it rammed home the basic premise that slavery was really, really, horrifically, awful. Honestly, anything you could say about slavery wouldn't be enough to fully describe the horror of slavery in the American South. Yes, I'm sure that some slaves were relatively well-treated, but even then, they would be the exceptions to prove the rule.  So with that said, I would like to point out a problem of analogizing anything to either slavery or Nazism.  

First, let's remember what slavery was - it was the condemnation of all Africans (American born and otherwise) to a life of servitude. And all it took was one drop of African blood to become a slave. So, if a person whose parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and fifteen of their great-great grandparents were all European, and the sixteenth great-great grandparent was African, that person would be a slave unless proven otherwise.  It was institutionalized discrimination.  Moreover, once someone was a slave, they had no legal recourse to protect themselves. Slaves were regularly subject to torture, rape, and even murder and they had no recourse. Remember Solomon Northrup was born a free man, was kidnapped, tortured so horribly he was afraid to say his name, put to work without pay, beaten and tortured on a regular basis. He received not a penny of compensation for 12 years of servitude, beatings, and torture. Zip, zilch, nada.  And he, as a free black man, had legal rights that slaves did not. Oh, and white men who knew he was a free black man were terrified of standing up for his rights because doing so would possibly subject them to extra-legal death and/or dismemberment.

As far as Nazism goes, let's remember that the Nazis were a basic totalitarian regime (i.e. North Korea), but much, much worse. For a blond-haired, blue eyed German who could trace his lineage back to Sigfried, life under the Nazi regime meant that he had to do everything through the Nazi Party. Speaking against the Party could (and generally did) mean arrest, torture, and maybe summary execution. For a Jew (or someone with a Jewish great, great grandparent), a Romani, or gay, life was significantly more difficult.  At best, these individuals would provide slave labor, and unlike slavery in America, the Nazis had no economic incentive to keep Jews, Romani, or gays alive. In fact, the Nazis held middle-management meetings to discuss the most efficient way to slaughter millions solely on the basis of their ethnicity.

So, to help with analogies, let's keep in mind the following:

If the governmental policy you are protesting does not result you getting tortured, dismembered, raped, murdered, or forced to perform manual labor for no compensation because of your ancestry, IT IS NOT LIKE SLAVERY.

If the governmental policy you are protesting does not turn you, or your loved ones into property, and does not allow for someone else to sell your children to the highest bidder, IT IS NOT LIKE SLAVERY.

If the governmental policy you are protesting does not result in the systematic and summary execution of millions of people by the most efficient means possible, IT IS NOT LIKE NAZI GERMANY.  

If the governmental policy you are protesting does not result in your total and complete loss of any and all due process rights in a Court of Law and/or Equity, IT IS NEITHER LIKE SLAVERY NOR LIKE NAZI GERMANY.

Yes, I understand that hyperbole is a common argumentative tactic, but we have to remember that the Holocaust and American Slavery were so awful, that they have psychologically damaged the psyche of the descendants of the victims for (in the case of slavery), over a hundred years.  Anyway, I realize that my words will have little effect on the scope of our political discourse, but I figured I'd try.
 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Couple of Quick Points About Ukraine and American Policy

For the past couple of weeks, I've watched with great interest the events in Ukraine - part of the benefits of following groups like Anonymous on Twitter.  And as much as I've cheered on the protesters who appear to support democratic change in Ukraine, I'm also dismayed by the Russian response of grabbing Crimea.  With that said, I'm even more dismayed by the foreign policy "experts" who have been blathering on and on since the Russians took Crimea (though I'm not particularly surprised).  So, a couple of quick points here:

1) Putin Didn't Invade Crimea Because of Any Perceived Lack of Weakness by Obama:

The greatest inanity of the foreign policy discussion involving Russia is the conception that Obama's weakness caused by Benghazi and Syria gave Putin the wherewithal to invade Crimea (well, not really invade Crimea, he just had his military personnel leave their bases in Crimea).  Um, no.  Or, in the words of my people, "cool story, bro."

This current crisis has nothing to do with us.  I know, we're the world's policeman and all that, but Putin acted out of pure self-interest.  Crimea is absolutely vital to Russia's self-interest because it gives Russia access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, which helps with its view of being a world power.  That's why Russia has a number of military installations in Crimea despite the fact that Russia and Ukraine haven't been one country over 20 years (yeesh. . .I feel old).  Having an unfriendly government in Ukraine (which it totally will be, especially now), would hurt Russia's interests.  Obama's perceived strength or weakness has nothing to do with that basic fact.

2) Going to War Against Russia is Problematic:

While Russia is not the superpower it once was during height of the Soviet Union, it still is a very big country with A LOT of weaponry, A LOT of soldiers, and more importantly: INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILES.  The presence of ICBM's (nukes) makes any dealing with Russia, especially if Putin is reading too much of his own propaganda (and he apparently is).  Now, that doesn't mean the U.S. doesn't go to war, but if it does, it has to move very carefully or else fight a war that would dwarf the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.  You don't jump into that kind of a conflict (unless you are John McCain or Lindsey Graham).

Of course, that's assuming that war would be a straight U.S. v. Russia affair. It won't be. Already this crisis affects Turkey (Crimean Tatars are ethnically Turkish).  And since most of Russian pipelines to Europe go through Ukraine, well. . . Simply put, we don't know where China, Pakistan, or India would line up in this kind of a war, and we don't want to be surprised by that.

3) There May Be Other Options on the Table:

Putin may be a dictator(esque), but in contrast to the Soviet Union, he has to operate within the same global economy as everyone else. In fact, the market economy is probably America's greatest strength. Economic sanctions by the U.S. and the EU will hurt - especially if they target Russian Oligarchs, who keep their money in the West.  Ukraine, as noted above, sits on a number of oil pipelines to the west, and supplies almost all of Crimea's power and water.  In other words, there are pressure points that can be applied against Russia that don't involve military power.  And Obama, thanks to all of his experience in dealing with Iran, knows how to use sanctions effectively.

So, the long and short of this crisis is jumping into action, especially military action is a phenomenally dumb idea, and Obama is right to move deliberately.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The San Diego Mayor's Race Postmortem

Well, yesterday wrapped up the Special Election to replace former Mayor Bob Filner, who had to resign as a result of his felonious lechery.*  To my somewhat shock, Kevin Faulconer won by an 11 point margin.  That's quite an asskicking by a Republican in a Democratic city.  In fact, Faulconer is now the only Republican mayor of a large American city.

So, how did David Alvarez, the Democrat in the runoff, blow it? Well, there are a couple of factors at play here.  First, and as Obama proved in 2008 and 2012, the size and make-up of the electorate changes with every election.  So, the electorate who elected Bob Filner (then just known as a diehard liberal, not a lech), is decidedly different from the electorate who voted yesterday.  In fact, the electorate yesterday was about half the size.

More importantly, though, I think Labor got so used to winning that it thought it could do no wrong. As in the District 4 Special Election, which I wrote about extensively, Labor picked the candidate that it would be most friendly to its interests and backed that candidate to the hilt. Now, there's nothing new about that, and Labor, as an interest group, is acting almost in the same way as the Lincoln Club would act, and has acted in the past.

What is different, though, is the Republican Party, Lincoln Club included, met and decided who should run, and who all the Republicans would back, based upon who they thought had the best chance of winning.  And that guy was decidedly not Carl DeMaio, who ran in 2012.  Rather, it was the more outwardly moderate Faulconer.**

Rather than follow that model, Labor picked Alvarez, a 33 year old City Councilmember, over Nathan Fletcher.  And even that wouldn't be as big of a deal had Labor not spent millions trashing Fletcher. By the way, members of the American Federation of Teachers, how does that strategy look now? As a result, Fletcher voters didn't all flock to Alvarez, and a few most likely didn't vote.

In the run-off, Alvarez compounded the error by not reaching out the Fletcher voters early enough, and again, had his good friends at the American Federation of Teachers send out mailers trashing Faulconer, sometimes in nonsensical ways (such as attacking Faulconer for being a member of the San Diego Yacht Club).  Moreover, Alvarez was simply not impressive in the debates. While Faulconer was a swarmy, Alvarez never really seemed to have a grasp on the specifics that he actually had.

When finally Alvarez got the Democratic Party establishment to back him full-force, the damage was done, and so was Alvarez.

With that said, I think Alvarez did the right thing by running. The three big knocks on Alvarez - that he's too young, that he's too entrenched with Labor, and that he's unimpressive in debates - can all be fixed in the long term. In the short term, he can ride on his newfound name ID while continuing to serve on the City Council.  I don't think he was ready this time around, but next time Alvarez will come on even stronger.

No, the real loser here was Labor. Its not that they backed the wrong horse - my friends who know Alvarez have a deep emotional connection to him that rivals any elected official - but their tactics, particularly those of the AFT, were completely wrong for this race.  Had Labor backed Alvarez in the primary, but avoided negative campaigning against Fletcher, they could have either ended up with a candidate who the average person north of I-8 liked (Fletcher) who need them in the run-off, or given Alvarez a shot at attracting Fletcher supporters.

As I said, the whole affair reminded me of the District 4 Special Election when Labor decided to spend money on Myrtle Cole, who was then an unimpressive candidate, in a District that was pro-Demcrat and pro-union, and use that money to attack Dwayne Crenshaw, who up until that point was pro-union and a strong Democrat.  The end result being that Ms. Cole is now a Councilmember, but being sued by Mr. Crenshaw for slander (and rightfully so), and remains thoroughly unimpressive.  Oh, and in an act of spite, Dwayne backed Faulconer over Alvarez, giving Faulconer nonpartisan credentials (given that Larry Remer, the consultant who called Dwayne a crackhead backed Alvarez, this is no surprise).

So, sadly, San Diego goes back to the past with a relatively uninspiring moderate Republican for mayor.  Crap.

*Dibs on Felonious Lechery as a band name, album name, and biography title.

**Faulconer strikes me as being a lot more conservative than he appears.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Random Thoughts Blogging

I guess blogging has become somewhat passe', and where once everyone had a blog, now everyone just tweets or uses Instagram.  On one hand, I think that's a shame because the only way people get better at writing is to actually write.  On the other hand, writing is as much as skill as it is an obsession. My escape from writing legal papers is to write other stuff - and expecting other people to do the same is insane. 

Anyway, time for random thoughts blogging - my little foray into whatever has caught my attention over the past few weeks.  Here goes:

Woody Allen v. Dylan Farrow

First, let me admit that I'm not a big fan of Woody Allen. I've seen a few of his movies, but for the most part, his movies don't really interest me much. I should also mention that I am a fan of Roman Polanski, with "Chinatown" and "The Ninth Gate" being some of my favorite movies.  Heck, I read the book that the "Ninth Gate" was based on (and its not very good).  

I mention this because like Roman Polanski, Woody Allen has a history of sexual abuse allegations. Back in the 1990's, Allen broke up with Mia Farrow, his significant other, when she found Allen had naked pictures of one of Farrow's adopted daughters (who was either 17 or 19 at the time). Additionally, she alleged that Allen had molested another daughter, Dylan, who was seven at the time. Dylan Farrow (who apparently goes by a different name now for whatever its worth), wrote an open letter a couple of days ago slamming Woody Allen and directly accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was seven. Friends and family say that back then, Dylan would throw-up every time Allen came to visit, and the prosecutor decided not to prosecute because of the strain it would've put on Dylan.

I remember the allegations, but part of the problem with the whole affair was the intervention of Soon-Yi Previn, Dylan's adopted sister who was having an affair with Allen when she was an older teenager, which was discovered BEFORE Ms. Farrow alleged that Allen molested her.  So, at the time, it appeared that Mia Farrow convinced Dylan Farrow to make up allegations about Allen to get back at Allen for dumping Mia Farrow for Soon-Yi.  Nevermind that the relationship between Allen and Ms. Previn was RIDICULOUSLY inappropriate (he was, more or less, her adopted father), and that it might have begun before Ms. Previn hit 18. 

With Dylan Farrow repeating her allegations recently, it does appear that something happened between her and Allen.  Now, a complicating factor, possibly, is the fact that Mia Farrow's brother was convicted of molesting children around Dylan's age, although the children were both boys, and there's no indication that Mia Farrow's brother was ever around her children.

That said, most kids begin continuous memories around 7 years of age. So is it possible that Dylan Farrow could have been molested by her uncle and her allegations against Allen were transference?  I don't know, but she certainly doesn't think so.  And Allen had a history of dating underage girls (though more in the 16-17 age range).  So it is possible he is a child molester, but if you told me that there was evidence exonerating Allen, I wouldn't be surprised.  Then again, its not as if I actually watch any of his movies.

Polanski, in contrast, unquestionably raped a 13 year old girl. Actually, he drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13 year old girl.  He plead guilty to it and has been a fugitive from the law for thirty-something years.  Does that make me an asshole for loving his work (none of which, by the way, has anything to do with raping children)? I don't know.

The Candidacy of Sandra Fluke

Sandra Fluke, the young woman who was attacked by Rush Limbaugh for testifying about access to contraceptives in front of Congress (on behalf of other women, mind you), is looking to run for the Congressional seat opened up by the retirement of Henry Waxman.  While I wish her the best of luck, I would like to remind everyone that California is a Democratic state, that Waxman represents a heavily Democratic district (not even by gerrymandering), and that Congressional seats with no term limits come up for grabs almost never.  In other words, there will be A LOT of competition for that seat. If she can pull through, then good for her.

Anti-Abortion v. Anti-Choice

A recent study found that abortion rates are at the lowest rate since Roe v. Wade in large part because of expanded access to contraception.  This reminded me of a post I made awhile ago about the differences between being anti-abortion (abortion is bad because killing fetuses is bad) and being anti-choice (abortion is bad because it lets women be promiscuous without consequences).  I think this study illustrates my earlier point - there is a push right now to make contraception harder to come by.  If you are anti-abortion, this has to bother you because the key indicator of whether or not a woman has an abortion is whether or not she has an unwanted pregnancy.  Prevent the unwanted pregnancy, and you prevent the abortion - unless, of course, the pregnancy puts the woman's life in danger. 

If, on the other hand, you don't really care about the life of the fetus, but really believe that women should not be promiscuous, and that pregnancy is God's punishment (a la Rush Limbaugh), then you don't care about the abortion rate.  And that was my point earlier.  I know a fair number of pro-choicers such as Hillary Clinton, who believe that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.  That would be my hope as well.

Guns, Guns, Guns

Since Sandy Hook, there has been an increased focus on guns and gun control.  Included in that have been stories of people hurting themselves or others with guns in stupid ways.  And let's be clear, guns kill people because that's what WE DESIGNED THEM TO DO. So, my lawyer brain starts thinking, if states are bound by the 2nd Amendment (which they are not as this moment), what can we do to prevent gun violence? My mind turns to the old common law which says that a property owner who owns a wild animal is strictly liable for whatever damage the wild animal causes to other people and property.  For whatever reason, this isn't the rule anywhere.

Here's how the rule would work - if you own an gun, and that gun causes damage to anyone or anything, regardless of whether you meant the harm to be caused or not, you are strictly liable (no defense) for the damage caused. The only defenses allowable under the law would be justification - as in you were using the gun to defend yourself - and mistake - as in you reasonably thought you were in danger and used the gun to defend yourself.  Oh, and if the gun is stolen (and reported stolen) that would be a defense as well.  I would also require all gun owners to have insurance, the same way we require car owners to have insurance, so that we could guarantee that victims of gun violence are compensated.

This rule, in turn, would create pressure on gun manufacturers to produce guns that don't accidentally go off, and that pressure wouldn't be from legislators, but from gun owners (or their insurers) who would want to avoid as much liability as possible. It would be a good first step.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Shattered Glass" and the Present of Journalism

One of my favorite, absolute favorite cable movies (movies that you tune into while its on cable and you get totally sucked in, no matter what part of movie you tune into) is "Shattered Glass," the story about Stephen Glass and his serial lies in journalism.  If you haven't seen the movie, or know the story, read this article by Adam L. Penenberg, the guy who broke the story.  If you don't want to read the article (but you should totally do), here's the short, short version: Stephen Glass was a journalist wunderkind who, in his early 20's, wrote articles for the New Republic and other major newspapers (Rolling Stone, George, etc), and in the guise of journalism, wrote complete fiction. Almost all of his articles were completely fiction.  And it was Penenberg who discovered the whole thing while writing for Forbes.com. 

I bring up this sordid history because in the aftermath of his journalistic oblivion, Stephen Glass, who was going to law school while writing all these articles, finished law school, took the Bar exam in New York and California, passed it, and as of yesterday, was denied entry to the California Bar by the California Supreme Court due to journalism history.  

Whether or not the Court's decision was justified, the whole Glass affair was the beginning of some interesting trends in politics and journalism that are still in effect today.  Here was a respected inside-the-beltway journalist who wasn't outed as a fraud by the so-called paragons of journalism, but was taken apart, bit by bit, by writer on the internet.  Not only that, but as Penenberg's article (you have to read the article) indicates, he crowd-sourced his research into Stephen Glass, using colleagues and interns, all working together.

That's amazing to me because virtually every internet investigation is done essentially the same way - one person says, "we need to research this, and I need help" and people who have a few minutes of time on their hands, step in and research. TalkingPointsMemo.com, VoiceofSanDiego.org, and a fair number of websites that do investigative journalism all use the same model of research as Penenberg. In that model, someone like Glass didn't stand a chance.

This story is also amazing to me because it showed how rotten DC journalism had become.  When he collected all the information, Penenberg presented it to Charles Lane and the New Republic who, rather than crediting him for bring the information to the fore, tried to stab Penenberg in the back by leaking the story to Howard Kurtz (who has found his place as an awful journalist at Fox). Kurtz' article didn't even credit Forbes.com or Penenberg.  He was the outsider, after all.  

Moreover, it now appears that some 42 of Glass' articles were completely or partially fictional, and no one caught him at it until Penenberg because Glass' stories played off of cliches, stereotypes and prejudices.  The hacker in "Hack Heaven" (the article that sparked Penenberg's investigation) is a 16 year old kid who wants a Miata, Young Republicans in another one of his stories were nasty to women and minorities, etc.  

Similarly, Judy Miller at the New York Times wrote article after article claiming that Saddam Hussein had biological/chemical/nuclear weapons and was planning to use them on the U.S. - literally parroting what the Bush Administration told her, and no one called her out for it. Instead, it was liberal bloggers who took her stories apart piece by piece. The same could be said for Dan Rather and the Bush draft-dodging story.

So, after almost 20 years, I think the Glass saga remains as compelling as ever, and the movie is ridiculously good.

Friday, January 3, 2014

First Post of 2014 - Thoughts on the Bahamas, Legal Pot, Slander, and Numbers

For those of you class action attorneys out there, here is one thing you should never do - schedule a class certification motion in between your wedding and your honeymoon. Yes, even if they are a month apart.  Trust me on this.  Don't ask me why.  Anyway, the past couple of months have been hectic, but rewarding, and I think I really should blog more this year. Because so much happened, this is going to be one of those random thoughts blogs.  Sorry people.  So, without further ado. . .

The Bahamas: When my wife and I were trying to decide where to go for our honeymoon, we both realized that for a honeymoon, there really is only one proper activity - sitting on a beach, or in a pool, drinking.  Okay, there are two proper activities, but we aren't going there.  So, outside of marital activities, the only proper thing to do during a honeymoon is to sit on a beach, someplace warm and drink cold drinks.  That pretty much eliminated Europe, as we would be compelled to go and see things. We also eliminated Mexico because its literally 20 minutes south of my office, and we figured we would probably go there a bunch in the future.  So, we opted for the Bahamas.

Honestly, its a great place to go, sit on a beach, and drink rum. And drink more rum. And some more. Seriously, there is a hell of a lot of rum to be drunk, which I may or may not have consumed. The majority of the time it was absolutely glorious, and I'm glad I went.  Add to that the fact that the Bahamian government works ridiculously hard to accommodate tourists, and going was convenient, fun, and worth doing. If you do go, check out Junkanoo, the New Years' celebration.

That said, there are a couple of things that are bothersome. First, and I wasn't aware of this before I went, there is basically no agriculture to speak of in the Bahamas. This is because the islands of the Bahamas are all essentially limestone with sand on top. While there are a good number of plants that can grow, most don't produce really produce food. So around 95% of the food found in the Bahamas is imported - meaning it is expensive and verges on the crappy. Add to that the sugary rum drinks (which, by the way, are fantastic), and you can end up feeling pretty gross.

The second thing about the Bahamas that struck me was the racial aspect of being a tourist.  Here I am, a white guy, being served by Bahamians (almost all of whom are African in decent), sitting in a hotel which has a building meant to look like an old manor house - as in a manor house from the bad old days of slavery. Yeah, not good.  While the Bahamians couldn't be nicer, and on Grand Bahama they were very nice, I can well understand frustrations boiling over into violence, which it totally is in Nassau.  And I don't see how it gets better - the Bahamas are absolutely dependent upon tourism (70% of their GDP), and remember, because they live on crap soil, they can't grow their own food, and they don't have much industry outside of shipping to provide Bahamians with high paying jobs. It does concern me.

Pot is Legal in Colorado: Unlike the Bahamas, smoking pot is something I've never done. I'm not sure why exactly - I like stoners, I get their humor, and enjoy late night snacks as much as the next guy. I've been around people who used it, and was offered some on a variety of occasions, and I've never done it.  Maybe it was all the anti-drug messages I got as a kid. Certainly, I'm part of the generation that was scared off from ever using cocaine.  Anyway, with pot now legalized* in Colorado, pundits are making dumber and dumber remarks about pot and why it should not be legal.

But the one thing no one has really told me is whether or not pot is more dangerous, and less healthy than alcohol.  For me, the alcohol test should form the basis of American drug policy - is this drug more dangerous than alcohol.  After all, the U.S. prohibited alcohol and then ended the prohibition.  So, we as a society have clearly decided that we are willing to tolerate a certain amount of danger from the drugs we ingest recreationally.  Is marijuana more dangerous, in and of itself, than alcohol?

And honestly, I don't think marijuana is. Now, the experimentation with legalization* in Colorado and Washington will tell us more about the dangers as we go along.  But California and a fair number of other states have had legal* medicinal marijuana for years now, and there hasn't been a rash of deaths. And if we had a functioning legislative body at the federal level, marijuana activists could use this information to legalize pot at the federal level. But, sadly, we don't.

Dwayne Crenshaw Sues Myrtle Cole and Larry Remer for Slander/Defamation of Character: My old friend, and former boss Dwayne Crenshaw is suing his former opponent Myrtle Cole and her political consultant Larry Remer for slander and defamation of character. In case anyone was wondering, let me say this - good for Dwayne. As with any case, its all based on the facts, and here Cole and Remer used a disgusting attack (with strong racial implications, by the way), that had been debunked 10 years ago. Put another way, the Labor Council put out a lot of mail slamming Dwayne, accusing him of all kinds of bullshit things, but even they wouldn't touch this disgusting ad.

Now, procedurally, here's how it will play out: under California law, you can file a particular motion killing lawsuits before any investigation and discovery if you can prove that the lawsuit attacks a constitutionally protected right by the Defendant. This was put in place to protect protesters from getting harassed by lawsuits from big corporations, etc. Under the First Amendment, of course, speech, especially political speech, is protected so long as: (1) everything said was true; or (2) the speaker thought he was making a true statement, and had a reasonable belief that what was being said was true. Also, satire - making a statement that is so outrageous that its obviously fake - is also protected.  So, Cole and Remer will file their motion to kill the lawsuit.  At that point, Dwayne will have to prove that his allegations are true - that the ad they published was untruthful, that they knew it was untruthful, and that he suffered damage as a result - at the motion stage.  If Cole and Remer win, they can ask the Court for attorneys' fees, paying for the cost of bringing the motion.

If, however, Dwayne defeats the motion, he pretty much has clear sailing because in the Judge's eyes, he's proven his case. All that's left to do is gather some incriminating statements from the Defendants to make them look like assholes to the jury, and he's ready for trial.  So, if there is a pressure point where the case settles, its going to be around the time Cole's motion to kill the lawsuit (called a motion to strike) is about to be heard.

Numbers and Rabid Conservatism: One of the more amazing things about the 2012 elections was the whole unskew thing pushed by several high level conservatives.  The concept was that the opinion polls were skewed toward Obama supporters, and thus, Romney was going to win in a landslide.  This theory was accepted by a fair number of people, including Karl Rove and Mitt Romney.  Of course, they were wrong.  Now, it seems to be issues with the number of Obamacare enrollees that drive the baseline conservatives crazy.  Is it the wildness of social media that makes this look bigger than it is? I don't know. I hope so.

*Marijuana is not actually legal anywhere in the United States because its usage is outlawed by federal law, which preempts state law. To the extent that people in Colorado can use marijuana, its because the feds have decided to let them do so.