Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Funnies (from Facebook)

A few punny puns for you, courtesy of Facebook.  Apologies to those who already read them there (or elsewhere... they are pretty old)!

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger.  Then it hit me.

Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like a banana.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

She was only a whisky-maker, but he loved her still.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said:  "Keep off the Grass!"

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Call for Common Sense and an Ability to See Shades of Gray

I am adamantly opposed to people sexually abusing children.  The idea of some creepy 45 year old having sex with my 10 or 14 year old kid just gives me the willies.

That said, there are varying degrees of sexual "abuse," different types of abusers, and some people convicted of sexual offenses who, in my opinion, should not have been convicted at all.

For example, a 45 year old woman who engages in sexual conduct with a 10 year old child obviously deserves a big punishment.  By contrast, a 20 year old woman who on one occasion kisses and fondles a 15 year old teen who is sexually promiscuous, appears to be older, told her he was 18, and was "coming on to her," deserves less punishment, if any at all.  In many states, both types of "offenders" would be punished.

As another example, if teens have sex with their teen boyfriends / girlfriends, it seems to me that neither one should be convicted of a sexual offense.  But in many states they can be, and are, convicted.

Granted we may not like the idea of our teens having sex, but in some cultures, teens routinely marry and become parents -- it's not exactly unnatural, and absent some evidence of coercion by one or the other, it seems really unfair to convict one and deem the other a "victim" (and based on what, exactly?  A year or two age difference between them?  Whichever one's parents called the cops first?)  when it is most likely that they both were happy to engage in the act!

And in other circumstances, the alleged "abuser" may be the victim of other abuse, such as when a child who is sexually abused by his parent then sexually abuses a younger sibling.  Perhaps treatment instead of incarceration might be a better idea.

The collateral consequences of a conviction follow a person for life, in many cases.  People are required to register on those "sex offender lists" for the rest of their lives. 

Registering causes all sorts of nightmares for the registrants.  They can't live within certain distances of schools, day care centers, and other places where kids congregate, which severely limits their options for where to live.  In many states, they are not even allowed to walk within a certain distance of these places, which severely limits their movements, affecting everything from how they get to work or the grocery store  -- is there even a public bus stop they are allowed to wait at?  Is there a route to that bus stop from their home that doesn't take them past the school?  Can they even take a job at that place if it is too close to a school? -- to whether they can even attend church (do kids attend?  Probably can't go, then).

Many landlords won't even rent to known sex offenders, again severely limiting their ability to find a place to live.

Many employers can't or won't hire known sex offenders, severely limiting their ability to find a job.

Moreover, the registries are public, which means anyone who wants to target a sex offender list registrant can easily find their photo and address online.  Registrants are often subjected to harassment, thefts, vandalism, assaults, or worse - up to and including murder.

All of this might -- I said MIGHT, not would -- be acceptable if this were their only punishment.  But it's not. This all occurs *after* the offender has been released from prison.  In other words, they have supposedly served their time, and should be allowed to get on with their lives, but they can't.

All of this also might -- I said might, not would -- be acceptable if the list were reserved only for the worst offenders -- those who had actual sexual intercourse with young children, those who forcibly raped their victims, or who were substantially older than their victims and should have known better, or some other way of determining the relative "evil" of their crime.

But is this lifetime of punishment really merited for a 20 year old who touches a 16 year old's breast, after she told him she was 18?  Or what about the 13 year old who is sexually abused by his mother or father and acts out by sexually abusing his 11 year old sister?  Should he really be subjected to a lifetime of punishment?  Or should we maybe, just maybe, try some sort of counseling and give him a second chance? 

And should someone who is now 70 and has been married to his wife for 30 years and hasn't so much as looked askance at a teenager still be suffering the consequences of a conviction for having sex with his 16 year old girlfriend when he was 20?  Isn't there some point at which we say, enough's enough, he's so totally not likely to reoffend, let's let him off the list?

In most states, though, once you're on the list, there is no way off the list.  And that seems fundamentally awful to me, especially for those whose offenses might be considered relatively "minor."  (Again, for the truly heinous offenses, I have no problem with the equivalent of a lifetime of punishment, and for really minor "non-offense" offenses, I think they shouldn't have to register at all...  but for the offenses in between, it seems to me that a lifetime on the sex offender registry is often out of proportion to the crime alleged and to the likelihood of recidivism, and that there ought to be a way off the list.)  Shades of gray, people.

Even worse, the lists are so overcrowded that they don't even help.  They are supposed to allow people to be aware of the sex offenders in their neighborhood, town, or city, so that they can make sure their kids avoid them.

As a parent, I have looked at these lists.  One problem with them is that the very limited description of the offense of conviction does not allow you to even determine whether the person was a 20 year old convicted of having sex with his 17 year old, very willing girlfriend (and thus probably not actually dangerous) or a 45 year old creep who forcibly raped a 12 year old.  Another problem is that the sheer number of registrants makes it impossible to actually protect your kids from them.  It would be impossible to memorize all of their names, photos, and addresses and would be ridiculous (and likely would cause more psychological harm than it would prevent) to try to make your kids memorize them all and avoid them...  Especially when so many of the registrants are, in fact, extremely unlikely to reoffend and/or were convicted of offenses that should not, in my opinion, have been labeled criminal acts.  If the lists were shorter, they MIGHT be more useful.

Here is an article that says it better than I could, because it comes from a first-hand perspective, rather than my more theoretical view as a lawyer. 

Check it out. Then let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

To all the great Dads, Step-Dads, in loco parentis individuals who act like Dads even though you're not biologically or by-marriage related to a particular child, and anyone else who is simply a fantastic male role model or otherwise a good male presence in a kid's life out there in blogger-land:

I hope you had a wonderful Father's Day!

And here, I want to give a shout-out to four bloggers who I think, from reading their blogs over the past several years, are shining examples of good fatherhood:

Johnny Yen
Kim Ayres (the Bearded One)

If you have time, check out their blogs!

And please forgive me if you're in the "great dad" category and I didn't mention you specifically.  This somewhat belated Happy Father's Day wish IS DEFINITELY for you, too.  :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013


While driving my daughter to swim team practice last night, we stopped at a light behind a car with a license plate that said, simply:


I said to my daughter:  "Seems to me that license plate ought to be on a Mercedes or a Lexus, not a Honda Civic."

Said she:  "Well, it only says she's 'Making' money, not that she actually has any."

Good point, that.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

State Farm Is Awesome

Usually people complain about their insurance companies.  I love mine.

I have had State Farm auto insurance since at least 1988.  Possibly longer.  When we bought our home, I insured our home through State Farm as well.

Yes, I am a lawyer, and I have read the "bad faith" insurance cases with State Farm as the defendant.  But either they have learned their lesson, or they reserve their alleged "bad faith" for people other than me.  State Farm has always treated me well. They have never denied a claim, and I have had my fair share of claims -- windshields that needed replacing, fender benders, vandalism, theft, lost a part of our roof in a storm once...  State Farm always just pays the claim, quickly and generally without any hassle.

Recently I was in a fender-bender in my 1998 Lincoln Town Car, which I basically inherited when my grandmother died.  It is a beautiful car, silver gray, with only about 45,000 miles on it (35,000 when I got it last year).  It is truly a luxury vehicle, with all the "bells & whistles" including heated front seats and a sun roof; it is soooo comfortable with its smooth, cool, thick and soft leather seats; it is in near mint condition; and it handles very well, too.  I love it.

(I got rid of my beloved Chrysler - my first new car ever! - last year when I got the (practically antique) Lincoln, because even though I loved the Chrysler, it seemed foolish to keep making car payments when I could drive the even-more-luxurious-if-somewhat-older Lincoln for free).

The fender-bender caused an estimated $3500 worth of damage to my beautiful car (estimates at three shops that I went to ranged from $2700 to $4000, with an average of $3500).  It doesn't take much damage to total $3500.... a broken headlamp, dented hood, dented bumper, and dented front grille did the job....

The bluebook value on the car is somewhere around $4000.  State Farm initially said they intended to "total out" the car because the cost to repair it was higher than the book value would justify.  They explained that this meant they would give me the money for it and I could still keep the car (and repair it or not, my choice), but that I would then have a "salvage" title.  So I could continue to drive the car, but likely would have trouble selling it if I ever wanted to, and they would provide liability insurance if I wanted them to, but no more collision or comprehensive coverage.  Ick.  I did not want a "salvage" title.  I was starting to fear my first ever hassle and/or denied claim with State Farm.  (I looked it up later, though, and this is pretty standard operating procedure for insurance companies, so they weren't doing anything unusual.)

I explained the car's sentimental value and the fact that it had only 45,000 miles on it -- years of usability!  -- and the fact that it is a beautiful car with all the luxuries and I love it.

They said, "OK, take it to the repair shop of your choice, and let's see how much it actually takes to repair it.  If it goes over about $2800 (70% of the value), the presumption is that we are supposed to total it out, but before we make that decision, we'll look at it more closely to determine value, and if the cost to repair is only a few hundred over the value we determine, we will consider your desires and the sentimental value of the car, instead of just setting an arbitrary "kill" number."

Well, the $3500 estimate was pretty accurate.  It was $3600 to repair.  But State Farm paid it and did not "total out" my car.

But wait!  There's more!

While the car was being repaired, I was scheduled to go on vacation, so I took advantage of the rental car coverage I maintain on my policy, and took the rental car on vacation.

The car was ready on Monday.

I was not scheduled to return from vacation until late last night (Tuesday) / early this morning (Wednesday).  In fact, I arrived home around 2 a.m.

State Farm initially had covered the rental car through Monday, which meant I would have had to pay for yesterday and today.

I called and asked if they would cover the extra two days for the rental car since I had been in California and unable to pick it up on Monday, and they said yes.  Just like that. Not even a moment's hesitation.

I love State Farm.  If you do not have State Farm insurance, you should!