Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thoughts On Glee

Did anyone else think Glee went a little over the top last night when Kurt's dad basically ripped Finn a new one? Sure, he was right to call him out for calling Kurt a fag, but let's be honest: everyone occasionally uses words they don't mean when they're emotionally distressed. And Finn had every right to be distressed! Who forces their teenager to share a bedroom with someone who is romantically attracted to them? Especially when the feelings are not returned?

I just felt like the show went a little overboard in trying to make its point, because Finn is a good kid who has thus far been a genuine friend to Kurt AND has been pretty tolerant of his unrequited love. But last night he basically got screamed at for being a bigot.

Of course, Kurt's dad was emotionally distressed at the time, too, but it was clear the show thought Finn deserved all of it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rant

Do I walk around with a sign around my neck that says, "Second guess me: I'm an idiot who doesn't know anything?" I swear to God, that is how I'm feeling this week.

First, I emailed my former supervisor to ask him for a letter of recommendation. He writes back and basically says, "Are you sure you want a letter of recommendation? Most jobs only want you to list a reference unless they specifically ask otherwise." So I write back and politely point out that I'm pretty sure it's a letter of recommendation they want SINCE THE JOB POSTING SAYS "TWO LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION." I mean, come on. Why is he willing to write a letter for me if he thinks I'm so stupid I don't know the difference? I've got less than a month to go before graduation, so this is hardly the first job I've applied for. Yet this IS the first time I've asked him for a letter.

And then today, after I email my parents about how I PICKED UP THEIR TICKETS FOR MY GRADUATION (which has the DATE of the event PRINTED ON THEM), my dad emails me to basically say, "Your graduation is probably on Saturday, not Sunday. Most schools hold graduation on Saturday." And then, just to be EXTRA condescending, he adds, "You're not at [my Adventist undergrad] anymore." Oh really? I've now spent just as much time at public universities as private universities, but thanks for assuming I'm an idiot that can't read a ticket.

Ugh.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Old Stuff

Don't you love it when you listen to an album you haven't listened to in years? Right now for me it's Jonny Lang's Long Time Coming. My roommate junior year in college bought this album and we listened to it all the time. Good times.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'm Just A Wee Bit Baby Crazy Over My Niece


Actual Letter From My Grandmother

I changed my mind about you, too! You'll meet the right (older) man someday. And you'll be a good catch.

Hmm, okay, seem innocuous enough. Aaaaand then we segue immediately into this:

And although I do like to listen to Rachel Maddow, she is so smart and really knows her stuff. Still a woman compared to a good man cannot be fulfilling.

My grandmother apparently thinks I am a lesbian. I might just let her go on believing that for a while. Let her stew in it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

BREAKING NEWS

Patent Attorney McDreamy has been identified.

*UPDATE*
Name may be changed to Adjunct Professor McDreamy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I'm Comin' Out

Those of you that follow celebrity gossip websites religiously, as I do, probably heard all the hubbub about People Magazine featuring a celebrity who was coming out of the closet. There was a lot of speculation about who it would be. I heard a lot of people say they thought/hoped it would be Queen Latifa. Well, yesterday we learned that the celebrity is country music artist Chely Wright. And many of the reactions have been "Who" or "Who cares?"

I think that's unfair, personally. Just because you don't know who a particular celebrity is doesn't mean that their story does not have an impact. Believe it or not, I don't know if there is another celebrity whose coming out would have affected me as much as Chely Wright's announcement.

I have always been a fan of Chely Wright, and I have long thought that she was underappreciated in country music. Chely often writes and records songs about what it is like to be a single woman, and I really related to her songs, Picket Fences, While I Was Waiting, and Not As In Love particularly. There were some great lines in there:

Here I am in my prime at least they tell me so
And if I go to sleep at night I always go alone
I guess that I could have it all and someone by my side
But I can't take the give and take the price is just too high


or

Well that's what got me thinking, it's like someone slammed the door
You just wanna girlfriend, I want so much more
You ask me what's the hurry? You say let's take our time
Well I say our time it just flew
While I was waiting, while I was waiting
For you to pop the question, for you to make your move
I turned into someone new
While I was waiting, while I was waiting for you


or

I can see a red flag wavin' when I'd rather be alone
When I know it's him callin' and still I don't pick up the phone
Oh I know there's a love here that's a fact
But he loves me more than I could ever love him back
I've been tryin' but I just can't live like that


I know it's stupid, but finding out now that she is a lesbian makes me feel... betrayed in some way. As if we lost the solidarity that I thought we always had. After all, Chely is a beautiful, talented woman who could most definitely have a man if she wanted one, and I always thought she stayed single because she hadn't found what she was looking for. The fact that she is a lesbian doesn't necessarily change that, but it does make it different; it does make our experiences different.

That sense of betrayal also comes from the feeling of being lied to all these years. Chely always struck me as a very honest songwriter. On her last album, she wrote a song about her relationship with her mother, Between a Mother and a Child that is really personal. I guess I figured she was always that candid with her writing. But as it turns out, she's been lying to her fans all along. And that bothers me.

But at the same time, I think there is a lesson to be learned here. Would I have been such a fan of Chely's if I'd known all along that she was a lesbian? Would she had been able to get her music out there? I would like to believe that it wouldn't have made a difference. I really like Missy Higgins, and she is a lesbian singer-songwriter. But country music is different, and I've been a fan of Chely for over a decade now, and I have not always been as enlightened as I am now. I think the fact that Chely did lie about herself for so long tells you the kind of life that gay entertainers have to lead. It makes me sad. Also, if I was able to connect so deeply to Chely's songs about male/female relationships, then isn't that evidence that a musician's sexual orientation really shouldn't matter at all?

So I guess what I really want to say is this: don't discount someone's decision to come out, just because you don't care about them. It matters to some of us, and it can teach us all a lesson about how we view the sexual orientation of our favorite entertainers.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

No Equal Justice

Readers that are Facebook friends with me probably noticed this week that I'm not a fan of the new Arizona immigration law, mostly because I am a fan of the Fourth Amendment. What's left of it anyway.

Now, I've heard that the law was recently changed to assuage fears that it would encourage racial profiling, and I don't know, maybe that's true. But that's not the point of this blog post. Even if the law ends up being completely repealed, the attitudes that emerged from supports of the bill made one thing perfectly clear: there really are two criminal justice systems in this country.

I am just fundamentally incapable of understanding how someone could be okay with giving law enforcement the authority to stop and detain someone on account of their skin tone. I know everyone has their own pet issues in life, ones that not everyone will agree with or understand. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. But when I see white, middle-class conservatives protesting in the streets over their loss of "liberty" in relation to taxes, gun control, etc, I get confused. Why do they get so worked up about those issues but they don't get worked up over invasions of personal privacy? Why don't they get worked up over the prospect of Arizona law enforcement officers stopping people and demanding to see proof of legal residence or citizenship.

My friend put it best when we were talking about this earlier in the week: a lot of people in this country aren't worried about being stopped by police officers because they think that would only happen if they had done something illegal. Why? Because that's probably true. What these people fail to realize is that not every kind of citizen shares the same experiences. What they fail to realize is their white privilege.

First, I have to say that I didn't think up this blog all on my own. When I took Criminal Procedure in law school, my professor assigned us to read David Cole's book No Equal Justice. That book is where this blog originates from. I think that I'm very fortunate that I had a professor who recognized these issues and incorporated them into my Fourth Amendment curriculum. I recall him telling us of his experiences as a public defender in Memphis, Tennessee. Every Monday morning, he said, he'd go to the jail and see the arrests over the weekend. And every time, it was just a sea of young African-American men. That left my professor with the conviction there was some kind of racial and class disparity going on in the American criminal justice system. In his book, David Cole explains how this came about.

Cole's thesis is that this country's criminal procedure laws have developed the law in such a way that there are two systems of justice in this country. One for the wealthy and middle-class whites, and one for the lower class and racial minorities. Criminal procedure at its core is always a balance between law enforcement's interest in ferreting out crime, and the public's interest in privacy and liberty. Because the courts are unwilling to extend protections to all members of society--as that would unduly hinder law enforcement--they have instead chosen to shape the law in such a way that the lower class and racial minorities have been sacrificed in order that the higher class whites may enjoy their own protections. In other words, a balance was struck, but reduction in privacy and liberty is born primarily by the lower classes.

Looking at Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, this is hard to deny. For instance, in Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429 (1991), the Supreme Court held that consensual searches of passengers on buses is not per se unreasonable. In other words, police officers may board a bus and work their way up and down the aisles, holding up the bus, while asking for permission to search passengers and their belongings. Without specific and articulable suspicion for each passenger. Not only that, but in his dissent in Bostick Justice Thurgood Marshall (who was joined by my personal hero, Justice John Paul Stevens) focused on the coercive nature of being approached on a bus, away from home, by a police officer carrying a weapon. Some may not find this too intrusive, but consider: what kind of people ride buses? Those without cars, those who cannot afford a plane ticket, etc. The lower classes and racial minorities. The fact pattern in Bostick is not likely to be familiar to the privileged white class.

Justice Marshall's skepticism over the voluntary nature of consent in Bostick finds its roots in the Court's decision regarding consent to search, Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218 (1978). In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that consent need only be voluntary. In other words, police officers do not need to inform someone that they actually have the right to refuse consent. Justice Marshall's dissent is one of the most powerful dissents in all of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence:

"I must conclude, with some reluctance, that, when the Court speaks of practicality, what it is really talking of is the continued ability of the police to capitalize on the ignorance of citizens so as to accomplish by subterfuge what they could not achieve by relying only on the knowing relinquishment of constitutional rights."

Marshall confronted the Court on how it struck the balance between enabling law enforcement and protecting citizens. The Court speaks of practicality, he says, but what they're really doing is sacrificing the less-educated members of society, those who don't know that they have a right to stand up to the police.

And finally, in Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983), the Supreme Court did away with the Aguilar-Spinelli two-pronged test for issuing warrants based on a confidential informant. Previously, before such a warrant could be issued, two conditions must be satisfied: "(1) The magistrate must be informed of the reasons to support the conclusion that such an informant is reliable and credible, and (2) The magistrate must be informed of some of the underlying circumstances relied on by the person providing the information." (From Wikipedia.) In Gates, the Court instituted a "totality of the circumstances" test in place of the two-pronged test.

Again, some may not see a problem with this, but that is a failure to acknowledge that not all citizens are treated equal. The movie American Violet is a great example of this. The movie is based on a true story out of Hearne, Robertson County, Texas. At one point in Texas, it was common practice to issue warrants based on the uncorroborated word of a single confidential informant. The real-life story of Regina Kelly demonstrates how law enforcement abused this lax law in order to target the poor, black community in Robertson County. When a CI fingered Regina (and others) as a drug dealer, her entire apartment complex was raided, and the single mother of four was arrested and jailed. The pressure to accept a guilty plea was intense, but she resisted and insisted she was innocent. When the ACLU came to town, they chose Regina as their lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the District Attorney. Eventually the parties settled, and Texas changed its law regarding warrants based on information from confidential informants. Perhaps if more white neighborhoods were raided on these faulty warrants, the national outcry would have been more audible.

I don't point out off of these examples of white privilege in order to make whites feel guilty. I see no purpose in that; we can't change the skin color we were born with. But what we can do is be aware of the incredible privilege it carries with it, and to put ourselves in the shoes of others before we accept and acquiesce to laws and practices that curtail the freedom of others in our society.

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me. "

--Martin Niem├Âller