Dieting with Dignity

Lucky Strike Diet (Featured)

In my short lifetime (they’re all short, when it comes down to it), I was taught that eating eggs was bad for you.

Then it wasn’t.

I was taught that you should eat a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet to live a healthy lifestyle. Protein only. Eat like a caveman.

Then I was taught that you shouldn’t do that.

Lucky Strike – a popular brand of cigarettes when I was a kid – once ran an ad offering themselves up as a dietary aid.

Lucky Strike Diet

Lucky Strike Diet

For some people, it actually works, although it’s usually the chemotherapy that does it.

The upshot of this is that during my lifetime, a lot of things were bad for you before they weren’t – although sometimes they were good for you, before they weren’t. [Read more…]

Celebrating the Fourth

Flag & Fireworks

In a way, it is fitting that July 4th is the big celebration of American – United States – freedom. As notes:

July 4, 1776 wasn’t the day that the Continental Congress decided to declare independence (they did that on July 2, 1776).

It wasn’t the day we started the American Revolution either (that had happened back in April 1775).

And it wasn’t the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence (that was in June 1776). Or the date on which the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain (that didn’t happen until November 1776). Or the date it was signed (that was August 2, 1776).

[Read more…]

Insuring That All Lives Matter

Officer with gun & insurance certificate

Yes, that’s insuring, and not, ensuring, although I believe one can lead to the other.

And I didn’t use any hashtag in the title here because, although I know about the #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter controversy, I’m not weighing in on that.

Rather, I’m going to accept, without arguing, that it’s not a bad thing for every person involved when police encounter ordinary citizens that both the officers and the citizen make it home alive. If you want to argue it, head on over to Twitter, and hashtag your heart out. (Or you could comment below, and I’ll razz you, or maybe just ignore you.)

I’m also going to recognize the fact that real police reform imposed by concerned citizens like myself is probably not going to be possible, where by “reform,” we mean “let’s try to convince police officers to quit killing us.” They’re not going to stop just because we ask them, whether nicely, or with more of our own force, and that’s that. As far as they’re concerned, we just need to STFU.

[Read more…]

It’s All In How You Define Things

Dictionary: Definition

Two articles in the May 21, 2015 Daily Journal out of San Francisco – yeah, I’m behind; I’m also reading out of order – make me wonder at the novel approaches of government when it comes to dealing with corruption, abuse, and the lack of basic human decency on the part of our dear leaders.

In the old days, they would stick their heads – or maybe ours – in the sand, in the hopes that no one would see what was happening. With the advent of the new cameras-everywhere society, something a little more inventive has been required.

[Read more…]

Court Considers New Rules for “Hide the Ball”

Officer shushing

I don’t often read the actual news section of the San Francisco Daily Journal, although I try at least every couple-or-three days to look over the Daily Appellate Report insert that comes with it.

Today I was in a bad mood, so I decided to look at the paper, instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing (reading a lengthy transcript).

I’m filing this under “Ethics & Law” because, for one thing, I don’t have a category for courts – I don’t often write about how courts themselves function, or don’t function, I guess – and for another, to my way of thinking this really boils down to a question of ethics. It’s a question of ethics first for prosecutors. But I think it actually boils down to an issue of judicial ethics, as well.

The article that inspired me to take to pen and paper keyboarding concerns discovery of information that may be important to criminal cases when the information to be discovered lies ensconced in that most sacred of places: a police officer’s personnel file.

[Read more…]

The Problem with Social Justice Warriors

protesters carrying mattress

There are times when it seems that the old saying, “There’s no convincing some people,” needs revision, editing, shortening, whatever: “There’s no convincing people.”

As a lawyer, I see this as a troubling development.

Now, in all honesty, I don’t know if what seems to be the case really is the case. It’s entirely possible that the Internet, which can serve as a megaphone for all speech, regardless of quality of content, has simply made encountering the roadblocks to convincing people more obvious.

The problem is, for most people, the voice you hear first, and the most, is the one that determines how you will think. For reasons that would require at least a whole ‘nuther blog post, after that you don’t easily change your beliefs.

This is why so many work as hard, or harder, on silencing oppositional speech, rather than arguing their point: particularly the modern “social justice warrior,” or as they apparently are usually referred to these days, the “SJWs.”

And when you’re busy shouting through a megaphone, the only voice you’re going to hear is your own – at best, since the crowd you hang with is typically going to be comprised of those who already agree with you, when you stop to take a breath, you’re just going to hear another voice echoing your own. If you happen to hear a contradictory voice, and you’re an SJW, odds are that you’re going to shift your fight temporarily to silence it – not to convince; just to silence.  [Read more…]

Don’t Blame It On The Donuts

picture of donuts

One of the more difficult aspects of working as a criminal defense lawyer – particularly in Fresno, California, where there are fewer brain cells in those in leadership positions than there are those in leadership positions – is learning that there’s really pretty much no such thing as good people. Or bad people for that matter.

There are just people. Period.

And we are all capable of ugly.

At best some of us are more ugly than others, more of the time. But the truth is that if you really stop, and look, there’s a little bit of ugly showing through in all of us, all the time.  [Read more…]

Law & Freedom

America: The Prison

Properly utilized, Law-with-a-capital-L is necessary to ensure freedom for as many people as possible in any space shared by more than one individual with divergent desires. This is ironic, since laws themselves are essentially the antithesis of freedom: their primary goal is to restrict individuals.

Because of this contradictory relationship between Law and the laws, the maximization of freedom in an environment with more than one human being is a balancing act. Without Law, we get chaos; people are hurt; and some end up less free than others against their desires, and through no fault of their own. Yet the more laws we have, the less freedom each individual has.

Beyond a certain point, the restrictions on individual freedom quickly result in diminishing returns. We could pass a law requiring video monitoring of all households, in order to prevent spousal, and child, abuse. We could post a cop in every bar to make sure not only that no one started a bar fight, but that people stopped drinking and driving. Everyone could be subject to being stopped and searched for weapons at any time, anywhere, regardless of whether there was probable cause, or not; maybe we could hire more cops, and post them at strategic locations throughout the city to do these searches.

After all, if one life is saved… [Read more…]

I Was Only Not Giving Orders

Cop shrugging shoulders

I originally titled this post, “Making the World an Uglier Place One Stop at a Time.”

My day ended thusly: at about 5:30 or 6 p.m., sitting in my office trying to figure out what’s going to happen tomorrow – I’d had a couple discussions with one DA, but another DA was MIA – and wondering if the tearful, anxious, 65-year-old woman who had just hired me was going to be okay, my phone rang.

The man on the end of the phone claimed to be a prior client. I looked him up: I had helped him with a traffic ticket, or something, about 5 years ago, in another county.

In his exceedingly gravelly voice, the man (who by now must be in his late 60s, at best, and quite possibly in his 70s) told me that he was stopped by the side of the road. Apparently, the CHP pulled him over for expired registration, and were saying they were going to impound his car. He began telling me a somewhat lengthy story about an ongoing battle of his with the DMV. Apparently, according to him, they owed him money. He’s filed some kind of dispute with them, using a form allegedly approved for that purpose, and they’ve basically just ignored him. For three years, he’s heard nothing.

And so he decided that if they were going to ignore him, and not return his money, he would essentially take it out in trade: he didn’t pay his registration.

I explained to him that the law was not on his side in this one. It was a tough sell. He had trouble understanding how they could owe him money – apparently, according to him, they admitted owing him money – and not pay him, but if he didn’t pay them for registration, they could then have his car taken. But I finally got a promise from him that he would have someone take him to the DMV tomorrow to clear this up, and pay his registration, plus late fees.

I then spoke to the supervising officer. He sounded ever so understanding, and diplomatic. He agreed that if it was his father – and the man was probably old enough to be his father – by the side of the road, he’d want a little compassion shown. After all, they’re not required to impound the old man’s car. And he could tell from his interaction with the man, that he was (while repeatedly going back around in circles over this dispute with the DMV, and the unfairness of it all) quite polite, respectful, and cooperative, and not apparently in any way actually senile, or otherwise impaired, or unable to drive. He was just mixed up about “proper recourse” for his perceived (possibly real) slight administered to him by the DMV.

The officer and I discussed the possibility that the man would be allowed to go straight home, and would not drive the car again until it was properly registered. During the conversation wherein – again – the officer sounded oh-so-compassionate-and-diplomatic, he mentioned the number of years of experience he had, and how it was sad, some of the things he’s apparently caused to happen seen. He said that he was not the officer who made the stop: it was his subordinate.

He said that he would go talk to her – this younger, less experienced officer – but that the final decision was ultimately hers. He, after all, was merely an older, experienced, supervising officer, and he was not going to tell this youngster how to deal with a citizen old enough to be his father.

That just wouldn’t be right.

Because…who knows? Maybe he’d spread the compassion gene. Maybe the world would become a better place. Maybe an old man wouldn’t suffer tonight.

Off he went to talk to the officer, and her husband, presumably to “reason” with them about the real-world consequences that can befall an old person when their car is impounded. The costs. The potential downward spiral which could ultimately cause them to choose between that month’s necessary medications, and essentially abandoning their car, or risking their health, and bailing the car out of “jail.”

During the next ten-to-fifteen minutes, I tried to keep my client calm. I tried to convince him that as bad as the impound fees might be, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We discussed the need to pay the state for the right to own property, even as they refuse to return money that they agree they owe you. For three years. He reiterated his promise to go pay the registration in the morning.

And we discussed not getting nasty with the officers, even if they decided that their lack of compassion required them to impound the car. Because the LAW that they ignore when it does not benefit them required it.

After about, as I said, ten, or fifteen minutes, I had the supervisor returning. I heard him tell the old man: we’re going to take the car. I heard the old man, again, launch into an explanation of his story.

And I stopped him, reminded him of what we’d discussed.

Because I did not want him to be impounded.

After all, the supervisor who told him they were taking the car wasn’t to blame.

He was only not giving orders.

See Something, Get Shot

SWAT team in action

On more than one occasion, people have accused me of being hyperbolic because of my statement that no one should ever call the police. Ever. In response to a challenge the other day – so you wouldn’t call the police if you came across a dead body? – I had to admit that I did not know, but I did not think that I would in that case, as it was not going to bring the person back to life. And almost certainly would not result in the police capturing the murderer.

They might capture someone. They might blame that person for the murder. There’s a very good chance they’d just execute that someone on the spot.

And we’d never know if he was really guilty of the murder, or not.

What happened to Brent Graham provides ample evidence of the reasons why.  [Read more…]