The Answer Guy Online

Providing information to unwitting victims on a "don't-need-to-know" basis since 1974.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Doctor's Orders

Suppose your religious beliefs required strict vegetarianism and your faith teaches you that eating animal flesh was tantamount to murder. If you further decided that your conscience dictated that you couldn't even facilitate this conduct with risking eternal damnation...being a waiter at the local Ruth's Chris is probably not the right job for you. And I don't think your boss there would keep you for long if, while employed there, you loudly demanded that your customers only order the salads before skipping straight to the desert menu.

He'd tell you to find another job.

Now imagine, that instead of something relatively trivial such as whether customers will get their filet mignon without having to call a manager, you're dealing with a rape victim who is trying to avoid going through a pregnancy caused by the rape.

Why a pharmacist who refuses to dispense birth control on the presentation of a valid prescription shouldn't be dealt with in the same way that our hypothetical Ruth's Chris waiter would be is an exercise left to the reader. Apparently, legislators in some [unspecified] states don't see it that way.

From the Washington Post:
About half of the proposals would shield pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and "morning-after" pills because they believe the drugs cause abortions. But many are far broader measures that would shelter a doctor, nurse, aide, technician or other employee who objects to any therapy. That might include in-vitro fertilization, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cells and perhaps even providing treatment to gays and lesbians.

This type of legislation would open a veritable Pandora's box of consequences. Religion is used as a cover for all sorts of discrimination. While it's unlikely that racial discrimination under color of religious belief would pass muster, maybe doctors in some states won't have to treat gays and lesbians anymore since they are often not a protected class under the law. The contemplated restrictions reach well beyond just abortion into contraception, anything having to do with sex, decisions about life and death, and even, in the future, matters connected to stem cell research, including any possible future fruits of such research.

Discrimination already happens in medical care; consider the case of Tyra Hunter, a transsexual in Washington, DC, who was allowed to bleed to death because medical personnel didn't want to touch her. At least those people paid (via a famous lawsuit) for their acts and omissions; they might be shielded in some states, if they pass the sorts of laws being considered. These sorts of discriminatory impulses absolutely do not need to be validated.

All this is enough to make you want to demand your doctor be an atheist. Of course, that's often not an option; Tyra Hunter, after all, couldn't go doctor shopping, not even in Washington, DC.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Crazy People

Studying for the bar exam has been mostly kind of dull. But when you go through practice question after practice question, after a while there are certain characters that keep showing up over and over again in the hypotheticals, the ones that behave nothing like actual people would. Now if you're fresh out of law school, and you've been subjected to three years of wild-ass hypotheticals straight out of professorial imagination, this would not seem odd to year. A few years in the real world though and you have to remind yourself to turn off the voice in your head telling you "WTF is wrong with these people?!" when you read the fact patterns.

For instance, there are the attorneys in the Professional Responsibility questions who violate every rule under the sun. The kind that would likely have been disbarred years ago for being freakin' idiots. Oh, yeah, sure, you can represent a shareholder in a dispute with management of your client corporation. Yeah, of course you can say nasty things about the other party in a pending lawsuit to the press. Go ahead, agree to a consent order that you know your client bitterly opposes. Like I said, freakin' idiots. What law school did these people go to, anyway?

Also, there are the religious conservative school boards in the Constitutional Law questions. If you're going to try to get the Bible into English classes, claiming that the purpose is to "instill morality" is prove the other side's case for them. Building churches with public money isn't very slick either. Oh, well, at least it's some easy points to regurgitate the Lemon v. Kurtzman test.

But while crooked (if not quite as stupid as above) lawyers and school boards who are ham-handed about their efforts to push their brand of religion onto everyone else are all too real, the same cannot be said for all of those criminal defendants in the Evidence questions who are oh-so-eager to bring character evidence into issue. Yes, they are entitled to produce evidence regarding their own good character before anyone else says anything, unlike most litigants, including prosecutors. To say that they usually refrain from doing so, considering the typical criminal defendant has a rap sheet a mile long and is known far and wide as trouble on two legs, is a the understatement of the year. In fact, though you'd never know it from the bar exam or from TV, criminal defendants are usually so deathly afraid of their character being discussed that they don't even take the stand. Even funnier is that the prosecutors in these questions often object. In the real world, they lie in wait with bated breath and hope that the defendant and his counsel are dumb enough to open the door. They ain't objecting.

The Contracts people are usually more sensible than this. But I might make an exception for the people who get pissed that the college student slackers who painted your house didn't paint the house to their satisfaction - and they try to sue for specific performance. Hello!? Really, now, what on earth makes you think you'd be happier the second time around if you could force them to go up to your house again and paint it, even assuming a court would grant you that remedy - which of course they won't?

And then we move onto Real Property. More specifically, to the dumbasses who don't record their deeds. For some reason, lots of them go to Tibet or something they day after the buy a house. First of all, these people should be freakin' house poor after purchasing Blackacre or Whiteacre or Mauveacre or Polka-Dotacre or Whateveracre. None of them seem to have heard of title insurance or title companies or escrow agents or any of those other zillions of people who get some of your dough when you become a homeowner. Even funnier are all the mortgage banks who somehow screw this up that occassionally show up in hypotheticals. This behavior then facilitiates the unscrupulous sellers who take advantage of our naive wanderers by re-selling and/or re-mortgaging Whateveracre to someone else. If these people exist, they can't exist in anything like the numbers found on the bar exam. Something like 10% of the Property questions on the Multistate concern these a**holes. (Of course, if the buyers weren't traipsing off to Tibet on moving day, this wouldn't happen.)

And we can't forget about the crazy, eccentric old people in the Property questions who can't seem to convey land without throwing all kinds of ridiculous future interests into the mix. You know, "I hereby grant Sillyacre to A for life, then to B and his heirs for so long as liquor is never consumed on the premises, then to C and her heirs, etc." * (This people also exist in soap operas, I'm told.) Note that you have to be rich to be "eccentric." Similar folks of modest means are just plain "crazy."
And usually they don't have lavish estates, or lawyers who can apparently afford their country club memberships because these codgers want to create contingent remainders and executory interests on all their land holdings.

Perhaps their credo is that it's immoral to allow fools to keep their money. Which, come to think of it, is probably the credo by which most people who practice law live.

* If you recognized from the minute that you saw the asterisk that this conveyance violates the Rule Against Perpetuities, you are correct. You are also beyond hope.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Death Is A Star

Interesting article about a blog from Death Row. It's a rare window into a world that, thankfully, few of us will ever know. Though words like "animal" are tossed aroud to describe the inmates, both individually and as a group, they are human. They have thoughts and hopes and fears like the rest of us. Most of the time, it is far too easy to forget those things.

I am remdinded of the Stanley "Tookie" Williams execution last month, except that this one has received far less attention from Hollywood and the media. Contrary to what some have said, it does not appear that either execution, either that Vernon Evans or the one last month, could properly be called an "injustice." Evans is a killer, and both of those he killed were as human as he was. The same goes for Williams, who continued to deny his crimes as his denials rang hollow.

That having been said, however, I fail to see what good killing people like this does.

It doesn't bring back the victims. It doesn't make anyone in the general public safer. It seems to feed the "eye for an eye" mentality of the folks found in these comments. To the extent it makes anyone feel better, it only does so because it validates our dark impulses to destroy those who wrong us.

I look at the kind of people who celebrate executions and note that they are just as wed to the dark impulse for homicide and violence as the murderers themselves. I feel sorry for anyone who has to deal with someone such as this on a regular basis, and that's probably a lot of people. Perhaps if they were born in the circumstances to which a great number of the men and women whose deaths they callously celebrate, their drinking buddies would be mocking their deaths instead.

To be ruled by these appetites to invite upon ourselves the "nasty, brutish, and short" collective existance posited by Thomas Hobbes in the absence of civilizing influences. And all this assumes that we have the right person in the gallows in the first place, which appears not always to be the case.

There may be some people out there so dangerous, so pernicious, that society can be said to act in its own defense when they take his or her life. Is that everyone in Death Row? Or even a significant fraction thereof? I think not.

At the end of the day, I look at the record of our nation and do not see a culture that is capable of administering the ultimate penalty with anything like the respect and consideration it deserves. Given how human beings are, there may indeed be no culture - past, present, or future - that can.

Totally unrelated point: The Baltimore Sun probably should have come up with another headline for Javy Lopez' dissastisfaction with the state of the Orioles and his role on it. J. Lopez Wants Action From Orioles suggests that Marc Anthony just isn't satisfying America's favorite lame-actress-turned-prefab-pop-singer, and she needs some adult-film worthy locker room polyamoury, rather than Javy Lopez wanting to be traded to a team where he'd start more often at catcher in light of the O's acquisition of Ramon Hernandez from San Diego.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Friends In Low Places

The good news is that the governments of the United States and Iran are cooperating on an international issue.

The bad news? The issue where the Bush administration and the Islamist regime in Iran are finding common ground is unfortunately not nuclear proliferation, the Arab-Israeli conflict, international terrorism, rebuilding Iraq, or rebuilding Afghanistan. What was the issue of agreement? None other than anti-gay bias. (For added bonus points, the regime in Sudan is also involved.)

Another sad aspect of all this is that this the United States gets no credit from Osama bin Laden for standing with the most backward of the Islamic theocracies in international bodies when it comes to gay rights and women's rights. I guess there's just no pleasing some people. Geez...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Estoppel Right There!

You know, most lawyers probably don’t even know how many different ways you can write a sentence that includes the word “estoppel.” Promissory estoppel, collateral estoppel, equitable estoppel, corporation-by-estoppel, estoppel-by-deed.. in fact, the word processor I’m using isn’t aware that the word “estoppel” is a real word.

I dare this stupid paper clip to tell the Maryland Board of Law Examiners that “estoppel” is not a word.

Amuse Me

I have to hand it to Edmund. Given what's been in my Comments widget while my poor blog has lain fallow, this post is funny.

"Attention CONSUMER:

Your blog, NAME, is positively great. I love how you post about THING all the time, especially your witty, wry outlook on IDEA. I will bookmark CONSUMER's blog and ensure that STUFF awareness is elevated maximally by improving your blog with links to THING, IDEA, and other STUFF that CONSUMER is intersted in. I'm sure CONSUMER enjoys THINGs. I sure do!

Yours sincerely,

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ugh, Canada

Lovely. Canada has it’s own version of Dubya Bush now. Well, actually, it doesn’t really.

I don’t really read right-wing blogs anymore…I bet they are moving lots of electrons around gloating about this whole Canadian election thing. Never mind that the Conservatives were running as the alternative to an ossified party everyone was sick of and a Prime Minister hardly anyone liked and got 36% of the vote. To get to that 36%, they had to promise they weren’t going to dismantle health care, weren’t going to attempt to recriminalize abortion, and above all weren’t going to involve Canada in the Iraq War.

The good news is that the combined Liberal Party (103 seats) and New Democratic Party (29 seats) total is greater than that of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives (124 seats out of 308, well short of 155, the magic number for a majority, despite winning every last seat in Alberta, Canada's answer to Texas), who would otherwise relish the chance to bring everything Canadians know and generally don’t love about their southern neighbor home to roost. (This of course assumes that the Liberal Party is worth a damn, which is not a sure thing by any means, although being deprived of power is often a good incentive, the U.S. Democrats notwithstanding, to shape up one’s act.) As to social issues, much of the Tory delegation is uncomfortable with any attempt to export American-style movement conservatism northward, and that's before you consider that even with unanimous Conservative support they'd need some opposition support to get any measure passed. Attempts to move towards an American model of public sector are going to meet a good deal of resistance as well; while Harper may have some ad hoc allies on specific issues, the Conservatives have nothing resembling an ideolgocial ally among the other parties.

However, the balance of power in the country is held by a group of people – the Bloc Quebecois - who presumably don’t even want to be part of the country anymore. That’s pretty weird, isn’t it? They may find a lot of common cause with the Conservatives with regards to provincial devolution, even though the bulk of that delegation can barely conceal their disdain for all things Quebec. (After all, Quebecois are about being French, and Conservatives of all stripes and anything French go together like cream of mushroom soup and maraschino cherries.) Even odder is that the Tories won seats in Quebec in some secession-friendly areas, and despite their new place in the catbird seat, the Bloc did far worse than they had hoped for Monday and in fact lost seats (51, as opposed to 53 before the election) from the old Parliament to the new one.

Of course, one of the things Harper wants to do is increase military spending. This strikes me as the sort of thing that the Bloc isn’t going to go along with, seeing as it is directly hostile to their leanings (most of them are fairly left-wing even by the relaxed standards of the Great White North) and policy preferences, and there’s no real way to leave Quebec out of the impact of the policy change.

So, the Conservatives have a minority government. Presumably, the Liberals will need some time to pick their new leadership, which, given how nasty the infighting there has been recently, is going to take some time. Some of the less hinged Conservatives will make some “colorful” statements that will sound a lot like the ones made by some of Capitol Hill’s more obnoxious trogolodytes, the difference being that even most people in Alberta will be horrified or at least embarrassed by the remarks in question. The government will have some difficult choices regarding Quebec and the Bloc, because almost anything they’d do that would keep the Bloc happy will cost them in Ontario and the Martimes, where they’re not keen on the idea of splitting up the Dominion, and possibly alienate their core in the West, who might wonder if Quebec is getting too good a deal. Harper has a scant mandate to do anything other than “don’t be Paul Martin,” which he should have no trouble doing since we’re in reality and not one of those body-switching movies they did in the 1980s.

There have been minority governments in Canada before - including the most recent Liberal government led by Martin - and most of them have not lasted long.

I expect Ottawa to be much like David Byrne’s vision of Heaven for the next couple of years.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The New Adventures

Where have I been?

Working, house hunting, home buying, working, Christmas shopping, getting acquainted with my new home, and now, studying for the bar exam in Maryland. Note that I’ve also been playing SimCity4 and some X-Box games, and I’m getting all my playing in now because I’m going to hide all that stuff come February 1. Heck, I might even unplug my net connection shortly thereafter, so if you don’t hear from me in February, you now know why.

In the larger world, there’s a Supreme Court confirmation battle, an election in that big empty country to our north, and an upcoming baseball season. There’s a State of the Union address to either fume at or ignore (I haven’t decided which yet.) There are no more Patriots to cheer on but there is one more football game to be played, and Peyton Manning isn’t in it either. The Colonials are still around, and still ranked, miracle of miracles.

I keep telling myself that winter will be over before long.

There’s a lot of catch-up to be played…

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