05 April 2012

Thursday Brain Dump

* Denver's proposed camping ban would essentially make it a crime to be a vagrant. What are they thinking? After all the years of progress under Mayor Hickenlooper (who actually had stronger ties to the Downtown Business Improvement District that is its biggest backer in the city than Mayor Hancock does), it is a real pity to see Denver on the verge of backsliding. Putting 300 to 600 more people a day into Denver's jail instead of on the streets is not a sensible solution to Denver's vagrancy issues.

* Good bills to expressly authorize county clerks to send ballots to inactive voters and to curtail prosecutor's authority to charge juveniles as adults without judicial approval for midgrade felonies are making progress in the general assembly, while a bad bill to require photo identification to vote is dead.

* The former sheriff after whom Arapahoe County's jail is named will be spending thrity days there followed by two years of probation and paying a tiny $1,100 fine. He used his influence to great a large scale meth for gay sex ring, and some of the prostituted or extorted young men may have been minors. On the upside, who knew that Arapahoe County would be the first county in Colorado to have an openly gay sheriff, even if the announcement did come only after he had retired, and the sentence certainly doesn't reflect any sentencing premium for gay prostitution over opposite sex prostitution.

* A female Jefferson County jail guard has been charged with felonies including having a romantic relationship with a female prison inmate formerly residing at the Jeffco jail and then lying and covering up.

* Some seriously convoluted messes in police discipline, like a female officer who was allegedly raped by fellow deputies who then covered up the incident who is also accused of fraud and blabbing too much on social media about the internal affair process who was recently fired by the Denver Police Department.

* Four cops who killed members of an innocent, unarmed family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans were sentenced to 38 to 65 years for the killings by a federal judge. Another cop who wrote a deceptive report that purported to clear the cops and recommended prosecuting two of the surviving family members was sentenced to six years. Quite a few other cops who plea bargained in exchange for cooperation received shorter obstruction of justice sentences, the longest of which was eight years. The federal civil rights charges can't be commuted by a Louisiana Governor and are subject to less direct and collateral appellate review than state convictions.

* It is a pity that the first time I heard of perhaps the only private college in the nation catering primarily to Koreans was when six of it students and receptionist were killed (and three other people were injured) by a 41 year old ex-nursing student who had been trying to get a full tuition refund. He turned himself in shortly after the shooting at a local Safeway and was charged with crimes that could draw the death penalty in California.

* The employment situation in the United States is slowly but surely improving with seven months to go until the Presidential election. Advantage Obama.

* College basketball is over, nobody care nearly as much about the NBA's boring post-season play, and opening day for the Rockies is just around the corner.

* The Volokh Conspiracy blog is a wasteland of libertarian bloggers arguing in an endless parade of posts that it is obvious that health care reform is unconstitutional and praying for a return to pre-Lochner constitutional rights for business interests. While the anti-insurance mandate campaign has made it further than most liberals and moderates, myself included, had dreamed that it would, my bet is still for an end result that will be decidely underwelming, narrow and technical. Congressional commerce, taxation and spending powers may take a slight dent in their near plenary status quo, but don't expect a clear ideologically coherent sea change from a court where Justice Kennedy hold the swing vote. At any rate, the only nine votes that count have been preliminarily cast and we'll see in a few months what the opinions in the several cases at issue look like. Throw in a bunch of posts on the scope of the right to deadly self-defense under the Model Penal Code and that's all they wrote. Boring.

* Nokia has finally concluded that maybe letting other companies grab huge amounts of its market share in the mobile phone business is not a good idea and planning on offering a new and improved model of smart phone to win it back.

* One of the little known regional airlines that provides small plane connector flights for a couple of major airlines went bankrupt; the story of the industry for the entire post-deregulation era. Why don't investors instinctive flee for the hills when they hear the word airline? The only worse investment I could imagine these days would be print newspapers, or sovereign debt from less affluent Euro countries.

* There should be a pretty steady stream of DSM-5 driven mental health studies and stories coming out over the few months as deadlines on its ponderous timeline march relentlessly towards its print publication date. For a lot of ordinary people, this decision will make more a difference in their daily lives than anything that the legislatures are doing these days.

* President Obama signed a mildly diluted bill banning insider trading in Congress with bipartisan support. Research conduct and promoted by Professor Bainbridge, a conservative corporate law academic, which demonstrated convincingly that there is rampant insider trading going on in Congress was pivotal in the bill's progress through the legislative process, a somewhat ironic result given Bainbridge's own ambivalence (nay, hostility) to the laws against insider trading generally, at least as currently structured.

* Five alleged participants in the planning of the 9-11 attacks, including the alleged mastermind, are facing renewed military commission trials which will be hard pressed to be completed eleven years later. An early version of military commission trial had to be overhauled when its was determined that sentencing people to death based on evidence obtained through torture didn't promote American soft power. A civilian federal jury in Virginia or Pennsylvania would have been faster, cheaper, more credible internationally and domestically, would have dampened rather than incited the movement behind those attacks, and would have probably more reliably produced a hoped for death sentence than the military commission process. The case simply has not been made that military commissions are a more effective way to deal with terrorism than the tried and true criminal justice system where most people suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in the U.S. or supporting terrrorists abroad are charge, convicted and sentenced to very long sentences.

* A pullout from Afghanistan and the effective date of the main provisions of the health care reform act are both scheduled to happen in 2014 and whether these dates are realistic are both still anyone's guess.

* Japanese and Korean television is much more comfortable with fictional portrayals homosexuality and tween/early teen sexuality than American culture, and is also far less concerned about versimilitude. But blessedly, their television networks also don't feel compelled to run every B+ grade idea for four to eight seasons.

* Why do people like reality TV? My kids love it and I just don't get it. I also don't get the appeal of long, meandering, unstructured talk radio and DJ talk segments. If I'm going to listen to someone talk, I'd prefer to listen to someone who knows what they are talking about and has put some real thought into what they are going to say. Maybe that elitists, but elites earn that designation for a reason.

* The Arkansas Supreme Court found that an eighteen year old student in a consensual sexual relationship with a much older teacher at her high school had a constitutional right not to be prosecuted criminally for their love affair. He had been convicted of statutory rape and sentenced to a many decades long prison sentence. Similar prosecutions in Colorado under the sexual assault by a person in a position of trust statute have been upheld, but those convictions carry dramatically shorter sentences, so the conflict has not been as stark.

* An interesting law review article has pointed out that if a sexually aggressive teenage boy rapes an adult female teacher, that the teacher may have no valid legal defense to a statutory rape charge. The issue hasn't been salient until recently because historically only men having sex with girls could be prosecuted for statutory rape and historically the age of consent was too low to make the possibility a the younger person in the relationship committing rape was vanishingly unlikely.

Yes, I know, there are no links in this post. Maybe later, maybe not.

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