Drunk Driving Permits

January 22, 2013

Councilor Danny Healy-Rae

Councilor Danny Healy-Rae


In Ireland, County Kerry Councillor Danny Healy-Rae proposed changing the law to allow drunk driving permits to rural inhabitants. (source)

Crazy?

Crazier still, it PASSED!

Mind you, I don’t really think it is crazy. In fact, I think that Mr. Healy-Rae is brilliant. I don’t know much about Ireland’s drunk driving laws, but I know that ours are a constitutional abomination. Lawrence Taylor’s The DUI Exception to the Constitution is a must read.

I think that we should follow Healy-Rae’s move here, in the United States. We should restore sanity to the drunk driving laws.

Despite what MADD wants us to believe, drunk driving never was the “carnage” they want us to believe in order to justify their existence and their funding.

My co-Satyriconista, Charles Platt summed it up:

State laws used to [allow] police to make a judgment call about impairment, based on their observations. But that wasn’t good enough for Candy Lightner, whose daughter had been killed by a drunk driver. In the wearying tradition of family members who want to make the death of a loved one seem more meaningful by inconveniencing everybody else, Lightner started Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The name of this brilliant campaign guaranteed its success. Who could possibly disagree with Mothers (that most sacred category of human being) who wanted to protect their children from alcohol-crazed hit-and-run maniacs? Alas, it ended up criminalizing the people whom it was supposed to protect. (source)

As Platt and Taylor remind us, there was a time when the law punished “impaired” driving. Now, it doesn’t matter if you are “impaired” or not — it matters if a breathalyzer, calibrated to the “average” person says you have a certain blood alcohol content. That measurement is garbage, since if you do not match the “average” calibration, you’re already screwed. Even so, at one time, the law said that .15 BAC was ok. Then, not enough convictions for MADD, so the limit dropped to .12, then .10, then .08, and there are pushes to get it even lower.

Blood alcohol content does not measure “impairment” – it measures BAC, and does not even do it very well. Meanwhile, as Taylor eloquently informs us, we have a swelling body of precedent creating exceptions to our most important constitutional protections, because of this paranoid fear that a drunk driver is waiting (along with a terrorist and a child molester) around every corner.

I do not advocate driving while too impaired to do so. I’ve done it. I worked my way through a few years of college by driving a taxi. I’d lease the cab for 36 hours, and sometimes I would drive for all 36 of them. Yes, I would swing in to Logan Airport and pick up some unsuspecting family after being awake and driving for 35 straight hours. If they had any idea how impaired I was, they would have jumped from the cab while I was weaving and swerving down Storrow Drive. Meanwhile, if a cop pulled me over for suspicion of driving while intoxicated, I’d blow a perfect 0.00 on the breathalyzer. If you talk on a cell phone (hands free or not) you are just as “impaired” as if you were over .10. Meanwhile, every car comes with a handsfree bluetooth hookup. Even minivans designed to be full of screaming children.

Put an over-stressed mother behind the wheel of a minivan full of screaming kids, yakking on her cell phone or the same mother, after a restful night’s sleep and three glasses of wine at dinner, and I guarantee you, you’re more likely to be killed by her in the first scenario.

Drunk driving laws have very little (if anything) to do with safety. They are about cheap political points. How do you say no to a grieving father shrieking “STOP THE DEATH ON OUR HIGHWAYS!” You can’t, not if you want to get re-elected in the age of 24 hour news.

But… half kidding, but half serious, why not have an alcohol permit?

You get your license. You drive for a few years. After you drive for 5 years, you get to go to the DMV and take a test. You drink until your BAC measures .10. Then, you drive an obstacle course. Make the test rigorous. Maybe even require you to come back a few times. You pass? You get a .10 permit. Crank it up every year or so until you are actually “impaired.” If you can show that you can drive, consistently, with a .20 BAC, then fine, drive with a .20 BAC.

But, along with that permit, you must buy a purple flashing light that goes on your roof. And, you must drive at 25% lower than the speed limit.

That way, the people who cower in terror at the boogeyman of the drunk driver, can see the “drunk” driver coming a mile away. They can pull over and let him pass if they are really afraid. Or, since he’s going so slowly, pass him.

Either that, or return the law to the state that it was in when it made sense — driving “while impaired” is illegal. Driving “while having measurable alcohol in your system” is not longer illegal. MADD goes out of business. We get rid of the DUI exception to the Constitution. Everyone wins.

H/T: Teresa


Happy Christmas. Fuck You.

December 21, 2012

Denham Springs, Louisiana resident Sarah Childs was in a dispute with her neighbors. So she exercised her First Amendment rights and created a special holiday message just for them.

bilde

The neighbors were not happy about this and complained. A lot. And Miss Sarah fought back. Source.

I’ve composed this Christmas poem just for her.

‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through the ‘hood
The neighbors all gossiped that Sarah’s no good.
Angry and tired her response did not linger
A Holiday light show comprised of a finger.

“Outrageous! Offensive! How dare she!” They whined
They called the cops and so she was fined.
She took down the show and felt quite dejected
Until the ACLU interjected.

The attack on free speech is a thing that’s quite shitty
So Sarah fought back and they sued the city.
The cops and the mayor remained so undaunted
that Miss Sarah’s steps from then on were haunted.

“I know what we’ll do!” Said the city with glee.
“We’ll make her sorry! You wait and see!”
A citation here and a ticket there
So much to the point that it’s hard not to care.

A wonderful plan was retaliation
Until they got nailed for a rights violation.
The lights went back up this time on the double
And this for poor Sarah was nothing but trouble.

The neighbors began to snivel and wail
This time they tried to throw her in jail!
The lights came down alas one more time,
It seemed all was lost- those fiends! That slime!

But the judge took her side and told the city to suck it
That First Amendment-ain’t no way you can duck it.
And all through the town her message rang true,
“Happy Christmas to all and to all a fuck you!”


Federal Circuit’s COCKSUCKER Decision Sucks

December 20, 2012

cork soaker

As many long-time readers know, Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act is one of my pet peeves. This is the section of the Trademark Act that gives pretty much unfettered discretion to a trademark examiner to deny a trademark registration on the basis that the mark itself is “immoral” or “scandalous.” The Federal Circuit just decided In Re Fox, in which it reaffirmed some very bad law, and in which it lacked the integrity to address some Constitutional fictions upon which most 2(a) denials are based.

“[n]o trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it[] (a) [c]onsists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter.” 15 U.S.C. § 1052.

One of the most absurd elements of a 2(a) denial is that the evidentiary standard is so open to abuse. An examiner may prove “immorality” or “scandalousness” by simply establishing that the mark is “vulgar.” In re Boulevard Entm’t, Inc., 334 F.3d 1336, 1340 (Fed. Cir. 2003). Essentially, if the examiner finds a single online dictionary or chat board where someone says “that’s vulgar,” then that is usually enough for the examiner, the TTAB, and the Federal Circuit.

So, another 2(a) denial is just a “ho hum” event. But, this portion of the opinion shows just how little respect the Federal Circuit has for Constitutional issues. I mean, come on guys, at least try and make it look like you didn’t just mail it in.

The prohibition on “immoral . . . or scandalous” trademarks was first codified in the 1905 revision of the trademark laws, see Act of Feb. 20, 1905, Pub. L. No. 58- 84, § 5(a), 33 Stat. 724, 725. This court and its predeces- sor have long assumed that the prohibition “is not an attempt to legislate morality, but, rather, a judgment by the Congress that [scandalous] marks not occupy the time, services, and use of funds of the federal government.” In re Mavety Media Grp. Ltd., 33 F.3d 1367, 1374 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (quotation marks omitted). Because a refusal to register a mark has no bearing on the applicant’s ability to use the mark, we have held that § 1052(a) does not implicate the First Amendment rights of trade- mark applicants. See id. (Op. at 2)

I find it outrageous not just because the court is wrong, but because the court was so glib and dismissive of the First Amendment.

Trademarks propose a commercial transaction; speech that proposes a commercial transaction is “commercial speech” and thus subject to First Amendment protection. Virginia State Bd. Of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 762 (1976). Trademarks convey messages about the type, cost and quality of the product or service associated with the mark. See Friedman v. Rogers, 440 U. S. 1, 11 (1979). The trademark is a tightly targeted bit of expressive activity that seeks to persuade a potential customer to choose one product over another, either due to the identification of goods or to the communicative element of the trademark itself.

Thus far, all USPTO decisions regarding the constitutionality of Section 2(A) rely upon the improperly decided case In re Robert L. McGinley, 660 F.2d 41 (Fed Cir. 1981).

McGinley is where we get the idea that since trademark applicants are still free to use the trademarks, then there is no abridgment of speech if your trademark is denied registration due to its content. However, this reasoning is simply shoddy and contrary to a body of First Amendment jurisprudence. For example, in striking down New York’s “Son of Sam” law, which prohibited criminals from profiting from writing books about their crimes, the Supreme Court held “[a] statute is presumptively inconsistent with the First Amendment if it imposes a financial burden on speakers because of the content of their speech.” Simon & Schuster v. New York State Crime Victims Bd., 502 U.S. 105, 115 (1991). In the Son of Sam case, the authors were still free to write, but were denied the financial benefits of their labors. That was the end of that law. This appears to completely dispense with the McGinley reasoning.

Bad Frog Brewery, Inc. v. New York States Liquor Authority, 134 F.3d 87 (2d Cir. 1998) analyzed a similar issue. In that case, the appellant sought to use a trademark of a frog giving the finger. The Second Circuit held that since trademarks are commercial speech, prohibition on use of so-called “offensive” trademarks did not advance the stated governmental purpose of protecting children from vulgarity or promoting temperance, nor was it narrowly tailored to serve that purpose. Not binding on the Fed. Cir., but I think that the Fed. Cir. is the wrong place to challenge McGinley. There is no indication that the Fed. Cir. will ever admit that it was wrong in McGinley, and every time it gets a chance, it doubles down.

Finally, there can be no clearer authority for the death of Section 2(a) than Lawrence v. Texas. (“The fact a State’s governing majority has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.”)

“Morality” is not a valid reason to confer or deny a governmental benefit – instead the government must articulate a reason why registration of a mark might be harmful, and then apply that reason to the particular circumstances at hand, in a narrow manner. The government has done none of this in this case, nor in any other 2(a) denial.

2(a) Delendum Est!


Talking to your kids about gay marriage

December 10, 2012

I used to have neighbors in Flori-duh, whose argument (to me anyhow) against gay marriage was “what am I supposed to tell my kids?

Louis CK had a funny reply to that.

“It doesn’t have ANY effect on your life. What do you care? People try to talk about it like it’s a social issue. Like when you see someone stand up on a talk show and say ‘How am I supposed to explain to my child that two men are getting married?’ I dunno, it’s your shitty kid, you fuckin’ tell ‘em. Why is that anyone else’s problem? Two guys are in LOVE but they can’t get married because YOU don’t want to talk to your ugly child for five fuckin’ minutes?”

The issue came up with my daughter, yesterday. Age 4.

She asked what I was reading. I told her, “an article about a Supreme Court case” – 5 questions later, and it was time to make something up, or just tell her, and see if she got it.

I brought up one couple we know who are legally married (and happen to be my son’s “godfathers”). I told her “they are married, like mama and daddy, because they love each other.”

“Oh” she said.

I then told her about our cousin and his boyfriend of 25 years – who we also refer to as “cousin.” I said “they love each other just as much, but they are not allowed to get married, because they live in Las Vegas, which is in Nevada.”

“Oh. That’s not fair.”

There… conversation had. That wasn’t so hard.

I’m glad that my four year old understands the Equal Protection Clause better than some judges. When the gay marriage cases come before the Supreme Court, I’ll be impressed if Samuel Alito or Clarence Thomas are able to show as much intellect and wisdom as a girl who thinks that Santa Claus is a member of the First Amendment Lawyers’ Association.


The slow creep of the TSA / new site review

October 27, 2012

By J. DeVoy

Roosh, the celebrated love tourist and proprietor of Roosh V, has a new project titled Return of Kings.  In one of its first posts, he addresses the TSA’s gradual metamorphosis into a pseudo-police force accountable to no one but themselves.

Roosh’s experience is not as jarring as Amy Alkon’s.  However, it is jarring to read as a citizen of a country that professes to have and protect the Fourth Amendment.

With the flats of his hand he pressed through every inch of my torso. He lifted my shirt slightly and felt around my jean waistline. Then he ironed my legs and the side of my thighs. He didn’t touch my crotch area. […] I had thought the pat down was going to be similar to how some nightclubs do it, but it was intimate enough that I’m sure the agent knows I’m not skimping on my deadlifts.

Roosh even comments on the TSA’s proclivity for stealing passenger’s possessions.  While not apropos to his article, it is worth noting that TSA agents have included alleged child molesters, proving once again that there is no bar too low for entry into the blue shirt brigade of losers and misfits.

Finally, a solution is proposed that is equal parts critique of the TSA’s inability to truly fulfill its stated mission and indictment on the complacency of cowed Americans:

It took about four minutes for my pat down procedure while the x-ray machine takes 15 seconds. If just 10% of flyers opt out, the whole thing shuts down and they’ll have no choice but to stop using them. The fact that most Americans don’t want to be inconvenienced for only four minutes tells me how much they care about having an increasingly authoritarian government.

Return of Kings looks to be a kind of introduction to Roosh’s school of lifestyle and travel advice.  If books such as “Bang Poland” and “Don’t Bang Denmark” don’t appeal to you, I feel bad for you.  However, if you’re weary of American culture that chides you for not thinking a costly, debt-financed B.A. from Bovine University is impressive, and skeptical of following the traditional path of a soul-crushing cube job to support a widening wife and your(?) insatiable-yet-ungrateful spawn, the site seems to be a soft introduction to the kind of subversive thoughts that have led others to ditch the American rat-race.


Is there room for exceptionalism in the case of anti-Semitic speech?

October 2, 2012

In Slate, William Saletan asks “How can we ban hate speech against Jews while defending mockery of Muslims?

By “we” he does not mean America — but the entire West. Saletan correctly points out that it is, certainly, less tolerable to engage in “hate speech” that offends Jews than “hate speech” that offends Muslims. He thinks this is deeply hypocritical, calling for equal treatment of this kind of speech — ban it all or tolerate it all. This logic resonates with me as a free speech advocate. But, is it correct? Is there a rational basis, or even a compelling reason, for treating anti-semitic speech differently?

Many of the laws that chap Saletan’s ass are laws in European countries prohibiting pro-nazi speech, or holocaust denial. Perhaps he is correct. Perhaps logic and justice dictate that we consider all speech to be equal. However, I think we do even the cause of free speech a disservice if we do not at least consider the notion that maybe hate speech aimed at Jews is properly placed in a different category than other hate speech.

There is no arguing that Jews have had a unique experience. The Inquisition, pogroms, and then finally the Holocaust – an actual coordinated, industrialized, effort to exterminate an entire race of people from the face of the Earth. Is there no room in the religious discipline of the exaltation of free expression for exceptionalism? When certain speech (in this case anti-Semitic speech) has provably led to one of the most horrific examples of evil that mankind has ever known, is there no argument in favor of devaluing that speech?

I do not say this to endorse exceptionalism in the case of anti-Semitic speech. I have somewhat absolutist views toward free speech. I do, however, think that those of us who hold free speech up as an almost religious concept must be mindful that we remember one of its purposes — wide open and robust debate. We do our cause little service by simply ignoring the possibility that we could be wrong. Saletan’s weakness is not that he is wrong, but that he fails to show any respect for the fact that exceptionalism might be based in something tangible, reasonable, and rational. There is a valid interest in play — the interest of a distinct minority in not being brought to violent extinction. There should be room in any absolutist’s mind for some respect for that interest. Perhaps that interest can be satisfied by something less than exceptionalism, but it can never be satisfied if we simply pretend that it does not exist.


Awfully Convenient…

September 30, 2012

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the director of the “Innocence of Muslims” movie, which has been blamed for setting off riots and murders in Islamic countries, has (conveniently?) been arrested for violating the terms of his probation. Among the terms of his probation: He was not allowed to se the Internet or a computer, which I presume he had to do in order to create and distribute his film. (source). From the sounds of it, the guy isn’t the most savory character in the world.

So yeah, it seems to me that he probably violated his probation.

Greg Pollowitz at The National Review wrote:

Listen, if you’re a two-time felon who is out on parole and told not to use an alias in business dealings or use the Internet and then you lie to reporters at the AP and WSJ using your alias and admitting you used the Internet, then what do you think is going to happen? (source)

Which is the only reason that he is now being held without bail, right? (source). Right?

It doesn’t have the slightest bit to do with the content of his film or the way that a bunch of idiots, brainwashed with superstition, reacted to it.

Let us presume that my cynicism is misplaced. Let us presume that it has nothing to do with that. It still sends the wrong message — that when the government does not like your speech, it can find a way to get you, First Amendment or no First Amendment.

Nikki Finke and Dominic Patten, at Deadline Hollywood saw it this way:

His arrest today is an apparent U.S. attempt to appease worldwide Muslims and their clerics and governments demanding for the YouTube video to be removed and its filmmaker punished. In an address on Tuesday condemning the content of the video, President Obama explained, “The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech.” This legal action is a way to preserve America’s  First Amendment principles but at the same time find a roundabout but legitimate way to punish Bakoula for the crudely made film that portrays the Muhammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile. (source)

I’m not saying that Nakoula should get a free pass for his probation violations. I am not saying that Finke and Patten are correct. Pollowitz has a hell of a good point. Nakoula couldn’t have made his probation violations any more public, and thus prosecutors had to do something.

Nevertheless, if Muslims are allowed to riot and kill people because they are offended at how their imaginary friend gets portrayed, I’m allowed to be offended when the government sends the message (on purpose or not) that “if you publish a film that we don’t like, we’ll find a way to put you in jail.”


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