Sturdley's Magical Mystical Blog

Musings on life, liberty, and the pursuit of derpiness.

Category Archives: Politics and Current Events

We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here

no-droids

The Kansas and Arizona legislatures recently made national news by passing bills allowing for individuals, businesses, and (in the Kansas case) government employees to decline service to other individuals based on religious objections.  Sponsors have said these bills are a response to recent legal decisions in favor of gay plaintiffs in discrimination suits.  Religious individuals are concerned they might be forced by the government to serve people that engage in behavior that is perceived by them as abominable.  The gay community is outraged that businesses in these states might be closed to their patronage if these bills become law, and are making comparisons to last century’s Jim Crow laws.  Ultimately both bills fizzled: the Kansas bill was effectively stopped in the senate and the Arizona bill was vetoed by the governor, though some other states have similar bills in the works.

I think these particular bills are awful because they are focused in attempting to target specific groups for either protection (the religious) or discrimination (teh gays).  I found the Kansas bill particularly troubling because it permitted even government employees to engage in discrimination, a definite no-no.  Nevertheless, there remains in my mind a niggling notion that using the full force of government to require a private business owner/operator to associate, however fleetingly, with a person or entity with whom they morally object can be wrong.  If you think long and hard enough, I am certain there is a class of people that you would refuse service if they arrived in your business.  (Hint: think beyond the classes who currently enjoy legal protections.)

The fundamental question here is whether a business has the right to engage in commerce with absolute freedom of association.  US law says no, providing anti-discrimination protections for race, religion, and gender, among other protected characteristics.  Other forms of discrimination are perfectly legal and sometimes even socially acceptable.  Consider the high falutin restaurant that bans kids or the convenience store owner that refuses to hire a highly qualified individual who happens to have a 20-year old felony conviction.

So what is the principled position behind anti-discrimination laws?  It certainly isn’t limited to characteristics an individual involuntarily inherits as a result of their birth such as race or gender (worth noting that gender is not a binary state as many previously understood or accepted it).  Religion is a protected class under law, but individuals are free to choose or change their religion as they see fit.  Pregnancy is protected despite being a voluntary (with rare exceptions) condition.  Likewise, not all involuntarily inherited characteristics are protected.  Perhaps I could open a store and serve only those customers that have an “innie” belly button or only those that are right-handed or people named Steve.  I suspect if I opened such a store, it would be viewed with equal parts bemusement and confusion as opposed to the visceral reaction that would be received for refusing service to homosexuals or Latinos.

My only conclusion is that there is no fundamental principle that forms the basis of current anti-discrimination law.  It is a piece-meal construct built a bit at a time, and only once a particular class has achieved sufficient economic and political power to demand action can they achieve some level of government protection.  At that point, the need for said protection is already in decline, so the action becomes more about vindication than true protection.  With such a patchwork some groups are protected, some are unprotected, and yet some others may be actively repressed.  This seems to me to be a hazardous approach to public policy.  If there is no principle behind a policy, then it becomes extraordinarily difficult to apply the policy consistently and impartially.

Winding back to that niggle in my brain; I still have not resolved my conflicting thoughts on this subject.  I can think of many scenarios where the principle of non-discrimination would force me to associate with people I find to be detestable.  For example, I would not want to sell a Sturdley’s Magical Mystical Blog coffee mug (note: no such product exists…yet) to Fred Phelps for the simple reason that I do not want to be even remotely associated with such a disgusting example of humanity.  The reality is that in the right circumstances I could be forced to do so by the government because it is currently illegal to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs.  If my hand were forced in this manner, what are my options?  Grudgingly accept the decision?  Close up shop rather than comply?  Go in the back room and find that mug with a chipped rim and give it to him hoping he won’t notice?  Maybe I could come up with some other pretense for refusing service, basing it on something unlikely to result in a devastating lawsuit against my (very) small business, and hoping to hell my true motives are never revealed.  This last strategy is likely being employed by many as a means to continue their discriminatory practices under the radar.

As can be easily demonstrated with anti-drug, anti-gun, and anti-sex-work laws, making a “thing” illegal is often an ineffective method of preventing people doing the “thing.”  Making a thing illegal drives people doing that thing underground where the behavior is obfuscated and more difficult to detect.  My personal preference is to live in a society where the bigots, racists, chauvinists, etc. are free to make their beliefs known rather than to hide them out of fear of being sued or jailed.  Whether they’re just an average jerk spouting idiotic speech or a business owner turning away customers, I want to know who these people are.  I want to be able to call them out, from the rooftops if necessary, for their asshattery.  I want to be able to stand outside their business and say to people, “if you go in there, you’re supporting a business run by a twat-waffle that fires women when they get pregnant.”  I want to bring my friends along so we can all pour our collective contempt upon their front door and anyone that passes through them.  I don’t want to live in a society where I cannot tell which store is hiding these disgusting people and policies behind a veneer of phony tolerance because that means I may inadvertently support them.

This line of thinking leads away from supporting anti-discrimination legislation, and though I have not adopted this position, I do have a significant number of doubts about the effectiveness and reasonableness of such legislation.  There are a number of situations where I would be inclined to side with the discriminatory party, and many where I would not.  Consider the following hypothetical situations:

  • Should a Christian baker be obligated to produce a cake for Gillian’s post-abortion celebration?
  • Should a pro-choice baker be obligated to produce a cake for Joe’s pro-life rally, including a graphic representation of an abortion in red icing?
  • Should a Catholic printer be obligated to produce invitations to Bob’s 8th divorce party?
  • Should a Baptist sign-maker be obligated to produce signs saying, “Allahu Akbar” for a mosque?
  • Should a Sunni Muslim graphic artist be obligated to produce an advertisement containing a visual representation of the prophet Muhammad?
  • Should a Jewish photographer be obligated to photograph Ahmadinejad’s 2015 Holocaust Denier’s Expo?
  • Should an atheist plastic-maker be obligated to produce Christian-themed toys?
  • Should a black tailor be obligated to sew hoods and cloaks for the local KKK chapter?
  • Should a gay photographer be obligated to take photographs of a wedding held at the Westboro Baptist Church?
  • Should a liberal restaurateur be obligated to serve food for a table seated by a group of hardcore (from the owner’s point of view) conservatives?

Did you answer the same for all items?  I admit I answered no to every last item, yet I still struggle with reaching a principled conclusion that lies firmly on one side of the issue.  Time to do some more thinking.

The Day We Fight Back

Today many websites have organized together to send a message to those once charged with our protection:

You exceeded the authority granted you by the people.  You lied and obfuscated when your actions were exposed.  You have displayed no outward intention of making any meaningful changes to your behavior.  You are able to monitor who/what/where/when we call/text/e-mail/browse with minimal oversight and virtually no true accountability.  The true extent of these invasions is yet to be revealed, but every new detail to emerge is terrifying and disturbing.

Today we are standing up together to say no more.

These sites are joining together to send a message but to also ask you for support.  For the rest of the day, somewhere on this page you will see a “TODAY WE FIGHT BACK” banner that will give you quick and easy access to contact your legislators in support of new laws to curtail mass surveillance.  I encourage you to do so.

Artificial Demand

Some news from a previous topic:

Under the terms of the settlement, police admit no wrongdoing.

That’s right, because it is A-Okay to drag an unwilling innocent man across the county for an unwanted anal cavity cleansing for absolutely no reason.  At least if you pay him the going rate anyway.  Hell, at that price Hidalgo county might just find itself with some willing customers lined up outside their doors.

February 11

Coming soon.

Let’s make them hear us.

Balls

In their new role as a beacon of hope in this cube-farm of despair.

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Buy yours today!

Two X-rays, Three Enemas, and Some Fingers, Oh My!

Read this and watch the video.

At first, I had to check that this wasn’t an Onion article.  It is inconceivable to me that anyone involved in this travesty could think this is acceptable or even defensible.  But, this is America, where drugs are bad, mmkay.  Drugs are apparently so bad that anal rape by police and doctors is now being prescribed as a tool for fighting the drug war.

So just why did a routine traffic stop lead to this?  1) Mr. Eckert  was apparently clenching his buttocks excessively, and 2) a drug-sniffing dog alerted police to possible narcotics on his torso.  Interestingly, the Deming and Hidalgo County police officers seem to have a certain amount of excitement regarding clenched buttocks; I suppose everyone has peculiar peccadilloes.  Drug sniffing dogs, however, have a rather questionable level of effectiveness.

Even giving these suspicions the benefit of the doubt, I cannot conceive of a drug mule being so effective as to endure the number and variety of procedures Mr. Eckert was subjected to without being detected.  I can think of only two possible reasons this played out the way it did: 1) these police officers have a scat fetish, or 2) these police officers were “offended” by Mr. Eckert’s objections to complying with the search and decided to teach him a lesson, as in “bend over, serf, and submit to my authoritah!”  I am leaning heavily toward #2, a frightening and increasing trend in our over-policed society, though I have not dismissed the possibility that both are a factor.

Reasonableness appears to be a moot point, however, as the search itself appears to have been illegal on a few levels.  You see, the warrant was valid only for Luna county, but the Gila facility where the procedures were performed is in a different county.  Then there is the matter of the colonoscopy portion of the exam which was performed after the warrant expired.  Of course, “We follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place,” according to Chief Gigante.  I suppose when you are the police state, the law is whatever you say it is.

I should say bravo to the one party involved this debacle who acted appropriately: the doctor at the E.R. in Deming who refused to perform these procedures on the grounds that they were unethical.  You are a decent and honorable human being, one of the few in Luna County, it would seem.

The police officers involved here, however, deserve eternal scorn and condemnation for their behavior: Deming Police Officers Bobby Orosco, Robert Chavez and Officer Hernandez along with Hidalgo County Deputies David Arredondo, Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Green.  May their names be forever associated with anal rape in google searches for as long as they shall live.  I would like to see them all fired for this, but sadly, as Radley Balko noted on twitter, one of them was promoted just four months after the incident and police unions have a terribly effective track record of protecting abusive cowards such as these.

The Gila Regional Medical Center (Robert Wilcox, M.D and Okay Odocha, M.D.) deserves all the publicity possible for this as well.  Not only did they force medically unnecessary procedures on an unwilling patient, but they had the audacity to bill him for thousands of dollars afterward.  I suggest you leave some comments here.  I also suggest you never walk through their doors for any sort of medical procedure.  A medical facility that employs doctors with nonexistent ethical standards is not a safe place for you or your family.

Damage control is well underway.  The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Community Outreach Unit Facebook page has been deleting comment after comment left on their page.  The Gila Regional Medical Center took down their facebook page shortly after the story went viral.  Of course, you saw how Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante responded to the reporter at the end of the KOB 4 video.

I for one intend to stay as far away from southern New Mexico as I possibly can.  I suggest you do the same.

Edited to add: This appears to not be an isolated incident with Hidalgo County and Deming.

Edited again to add: More additional info and kudos to KOB 4 for keeping on top of this story.

Intolerance for Zero Tolerance

We have a problem, a problem of stupid people using stupid laws to punish children and teenagers for normal, sometimes even desirable behavior.  What follows is but a small sample of the derpitude infecting our schools and communities.

 

North Andover, MA:

High school senior and volleyball team captain Erin Cox stops at a party give her too-drunk-to-drive friend a ride home.  Police, who have also just arrived, briefly question her about her presence at the party but allow her leave after determining she has not been drinking.  North Andover High School administrators (Principal Carla Scuzzarella & Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson) learn of this and punish Erin for violating a zero tolerance drug & alcohol policy by removing her as volleyball team captain and suspending her for five games.

See also: further developments.  Double derp!

 

Lassiter High School, Marietta, GA:

High school senior, avid fisherman, and hopeful Air Force recruit Cody Chitwood leaves his tackle box containing fishing knives in his vehicle and drives to school.  During a police sweep of the school parking lot, drug-sniffing dogs detect black powder from a firecracker left in his trunk, search the vehicle, and find the knives.  Cody is suspended by school administrators (Principal Chris Richie & Superintendent Michael Hinojosa) for 10 days and charged (District Attorney Vic Reynolds) with a felony for bringing weapons into a school zone.  On October 16, it was reported the felony charges were dropped, and Cody will be entering the Cobb County pre-trial diversion program.  This possibly means community service and random drug tests, which makes total sense considering the original “infraction.”

 

Allatoona High School, Acworth, GA:

High school student Andrew Williams leaves a pocket knife in the center console of his car.  Following accusations of drug use in his vehicle an assistant principal searched the car, finding the knife but no drugs.  Andrew was charged with a felony for bringing a weapon into a school zone.

 

Park Elementary School, Brooklyn Park, MD:

7-year old Joshua, while eating a pastry for his snack, nibbled it into a shape he described as a mountain.  His unnamed teacher determined it was in fact in the shape of a gun and sent him to the unnamed Principal’s office where he was given a 2-day suspension.

 

Lake Region High School, Naples, ME:

Ninth-grader Tracy Jannicelli was experiencing a headache and asked some fellow students if they had any Tylenol; one of them did and gave it to her.  Assistant Principal Guy Stickney later questioned her about the “incident” then suspended her for 5 days.  Not to be outdone, school Superintendent Candace Brown extended the suspension to 10 days and requested the school board consider if expulsion was warranted.  On the recommendation of Stickney, the board expelled her for violation of zero tolerance drug policy.

 

Hodges Bend Middle School, Houston, TX:

Eighth-grader and Jonae Devlin was suspended for wearing a rosary bead necklace in violation of the school’s anti-gang dress code.  The unnamed Principal gave her the choice to remove the religiously-themed neckwear or be expelled.  She chose to stand by her principles.

Additional rosary bead incidents:

  • 13-year-old Raymon Hosier of Schenectady, New York
  • A 14-year old boy of Haverstraw, New York

 

Grand Island, NE:

Three-year old Hunter Spanjer, a deaf child, was asked to change how he signs his name using Signing Exact English (the sign language he is learning) because the extended index fingers apparently resemble a gun and was in violation of the school’s weapons policy.  “We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child.” said Jack Sheard, Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson.  Four days and several hundred angry phone calls and email later, the district decided to waddle back on the request while making a passive-aggressive swipe at the choice of sign language Hunter’s parents chose to use.

 

Harmony Community School, Harmony, FL:

Eight-year old Jordan was suspended for using his index finger and thumb as a play gun.  School officials were conveniently unnamed in the article.

 

Virginia Beach, VA:

13-year old Khalid Caraballo and Aidan Clark as well as two other students were given long-term suspensions (read: until the end of the school year) for playing with an airsoft gun in their front yards.  A neighbor reported the activity to 911, and things naturally snowballed from there.

 

Glendale Unified School District, CA:

The Glendale Unified School District has hired the firm Geo Listening to monitor social media accounts of its middle and high school students in an effort to, well, snoop.

 

The common thread in throughout these stories is the so-called “zero tolerance” policy related to real or imagined weapons, violence, drugs, alcohol, or various other scourges afflicting the children.  The supposed feature is that punishment is inflicted automatically without regard to the circumstances of the “offense” and without the use of simple logic or common sense in determining whether the punishment is truly warranted, the intent being to use fear of draconian punishment to keep the little bastards in line.  Some of these policies have spilled over the boundaries of school property and are being enforced 24/7 wherever the student may be.  Private schools are more insulated, but are not completely immune to this madness.  It is probably only a matter of time before even home-schooled children are affected.

Some cases receive widespread media attention which serves to shame the bureaucrats into backing down, but this is often the exception.  In any event, it should not require such attention for these people to behave as reasonable and rational adults.  Some families can afford to hire an attorney to fight the charges or sue the school district, but those on the poorer end of the economic spectrum have far more limited options.

There is evidence that these policies are not only ineffective, but may be harmful.

 

A secondary, but equally troubling theme in many of these stories are excuses of the variety, “my hands are tied, this is the policy/law/whatever.”  I don’t doubt some of these individuals would dole out the same punishment regardless, but hiding behind a bureaucracy is no excuse for participation in morally repugnant behavior.  Subjugating your integrity for job security is most assuredly not a quality we should be teaching our kids.

 

You may have noticed I have linked to contact information of the various authority figures involved in the above stories wherever possible.  Interestingly, many of the news stories include the names of the students, but omit the names of the so-called adults doling out the punishment.  I simply do not understand why these public officials should enjoy being shielded from accountability by the press in light of such odious behavior.  I believe they should hear loudly, clearly, and frequently (but with a modicum of civility) that enough is enough.  Your state and federal representatives should also be given an earful about the ridiculous and counterproductive laws supporting and mandating these policies.  This stuff will not go away all by itself.

 

A Final Note:

I believe these zero tolerance policies are merely a symptom of a larger problem in our country, a confluence of tough-on-crime, lock them up and throw away the key attitudes and the belief that the law is always the best vehicle for addressing any undesired behavior.  We are wasting our time, money, and labor on practices that are not only ineffective, but inefficient.  We are damaging and destroying lives by attempting to control rather than addressing the more fundamental problems.  These, however, are topics for another day.

Day Fourteen: Independence!

It has been two weeks with no federal government. We cannot live with this much lawless freedom, so I am declaring independence. I have named my new nation Sturdleysblogistan.
We are a brutal dictatorship run on the tears of oppressed children.
If we think you look suspicious, we’ll tase your ass.
Our religion is Derpianity, and if you blaspheme, you will be punished.
Our police force is the most honest on the planet.

So come visit us. I’m offering a special to the first 100 people that apply for citizenship: my own personal jackboot on your neck for a full five minutes with a commemorative autographed photo free of charge. After the first 100, everyone gets only one minute and the photo isn’t autographed.  You can’t get that kind of individualized service from just any old tyrant.

Day Thirteen

Today I was forced to endure a torturous and demented cultural celebration: a children’s birthday party at one of those kid-themed game restaurants. I’m fairly sure these sprung up when the shutdown started because there is no way these things could be legal. Within the span of a few hours I saw exquisite joy and suffering beyond imagination. I saw sheer terror and total confusion. I was completely immersed in chaos.
I wonder if this is how Congress functions on a daily basis…

Day Twelve

This shutdown is starting to weigh heavily on me.  So many lives and families being destroyed.  Many of my friends must choose between feeding themselves or hanging out with me.  Guess what the losers are picking?  NSABob hasn’t been on iSpy in quite a while.  It’s so lonely here, but I have just learned of a sure-fire way to make more friends.  I shall ponder this while drinking my pumpkin ale.