Tag: random

There is a difference

Today it is Jr’s “harassment” note, decades ago it was the assertion that “harassment is an ugly guy trying to get some”, but the fact remains that *harassment* there is a whole spectrum of harassment. Some dude whipping it out on the lunch queue, that’s blatantly obvious harassment without me specifically asking the individual to keep their genitalia covered. But harassment can be subtler too. The harassment I experienced frequently at work (twenty years ago) was the kind that became harassment when the guy refused to stop. A coworker asking me on a date is not harassment; a fellow student asking me to go to a dance is not harassment. Asking a dozen times *IS* harassment. Grabbing at my person and telling me how much I’ll enjoy the date *IS* harassment. And throwing them down on a bed, and attempting to disrobe them whilst covering their mouth … that’s not just harassment, that’s assault. And battery. And likely false imprisonment.

History Without Context

There’s a challenge in teaching history to young people — whilst it is not good to proceed through life ignorant of what has come before you, there are facets of history that are simply incomprehensible to a five year old kid. Explaining why some people are afraid of the police, describing the point of the military … it is a snarl of sociological and political facts, individual experiences … there’s a good and a bad side, but it is difficult to understand points of view without the entire history that created that point of view (a bit like coupling Zinn’s People’s History with Johnson’s History of the American People and calling that a balanced history lesson). I used to advocate for the inclusion of fictional works in University history classes — while the story itself may not be true, fictional works provide a picture into the reality of the time. History provides a context for books, and books provide a context for history. Arthur Miller was not randomly enamored with the Salem witch hunts.

Sadly, Anya’s teacher has begun down the path of history without context. Today (why not yesterday!?!) she taught the kids that “bad people” crashed planes into buildings in DC and NYC, as well as PA. Which left me to try explaining that it’s not like half a dozen people woke up one morning and thought it might be a lark to try flying an aeroplane … only to find it wasn’t as easy as it looks on TV. It was an organized group executing a plan. It was also a group organized partially because of terrible things done across the globe. A cause can be just without justifying any action taken in support of the cause. The validity of a cause doesn’t make the action right any more than “he hit me first” makes slugging your brother right.

A lot of nation-states, countries, and people have done a lot of terrible things to one another in the name of just causes … the events of which the teacher spoke is an egregious example.

Just say the word

It worries me — the did he / didn’t he “say the n word” question once again surrounding Trump. Not because I think he did or did not use the term, but because the discussion is meaningless. Trump will deny saying it — hell, he denies writing things that are archived in his Twitter account. He denies saying things that even when told there is a publicly available recording of him saying it. The racists among his supporters will see a wink with that denial. Some willfully blind supports will believe the denial. Opponents will assume the tape exists. Whatever.

Words are powerful, but not in the way this debate seems to imply. Not saying a specific word does not magically cure the social, political, and economic problems in this country any more than having a president say radical Islamic terrorism magically solved the real social, political, and economic problems that lead to terrorist attacks.

But what makes a single word the arbiter of racism? I had a physical education instructor who was sexist. The fact he called every girl in his class “chick” didn’t make him sexist. His belief that we were less capable because of our gender, that our time in physical education would best be spent sitting on the bleachers fixing up our nails, that we did not have the mental capacity to be taught. That made him racist. Had the man respectfully called me by my proper name every single time … he would still have been a sexist asshole who had no business teaching school children.

Someone who made his political name demanding a president show him some ID, who knowingly called Mexican emigrants a bunch of rapists, who thinks shutting down Mosques bears consideration, who refers to hut-dwellers from shit-hole countries … words are powerful, but refraining from uttering a specific word does not negate his racism. Maybe the dude was not a racist (discrimination against tenants and such says otherwise, but just pretend). Maybe Trump’s political persona is a role he’s playing. Willing injuring others by inciting racist violence. Scapegoating others for serious economic problems. Fomenting a social environment where racist actions are acceptable. Maybe that’s not racist. It’s still horrendous behavior.

Seeing Crime Everywhere

There have been a few stories recently about white people ringing up the police because someone with darker skin exists. This most recent story is a grad student who fell asleep while writing a paper in a common room. Not unheard of, there were kids dozing off in the library and residential common areas all.the.time. Kids fell asleep in my computer lab too. Sometimes even the work study kids who were meant to be supervising the area and assisting with computer problems. Almost a decade ago, it was a Harvard professor and his driver forcing a stuck door at his house. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve encountered a police officer while I was breaking into a car in a car park. It wasn’t just a police officer who happened across me. Dozens of people in the plaza didn’t look twice at the white chick forcing her way into a car.

It isn’t the police response that strikes me as much as the person making the report — it’s like we need a beer summit on a national scale. Why not approach the sleeping person, wake them, and suggest their room is going to be a comfier place for a nap. Or if they wake up and want to hang in the commons area, strike up a conversation. Ask their program, tell them about your program. And if you still think the person isn’t a student (doesn’t know the names of teachers in their department or knows totally made up profs, whatever) then call campus security or the police.

Sitting is the New Smoking

Some company official posted an internal article titled “Sitting is the New Smoking” to tell us all how bad sitting for prolonged periods of time can be for your health. While they make suggestions for using your break to do some exercises or suggest cube-exercises … frankly, they’ve designed a job that requires sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Some people have standing desks. Not all. Not most. My understanding is these things were purchased as accommodative equipment the company had to purchase based on medical need. If sitting is as bad for your health as smoking, did the company not just publish its own statement of medical need to support widespread purchase of standing desks?

Beyond near-term costs, though, the assertion brought to mind the Black Lung Benefits Act from nearly two decades ago. While mine operators may have been able to reduce exposure to coal dust, some level of exposure to coal is requisite in mining the stuff. A generally unavoidable environment based on the work being done caused a major medical problem that led to disability and death, and companies ended up shelling out disability payments and survivor benefits. It wasn’t quite the least they could possibly do to quell public outcry, but there are a lot of *’s on qualifying that let reasonable requests be denied or pushed off for years without retroactive payments. Even so, the payout is like eight grand a year per afflicted miner. And there are like 30k recipients (and something like 5k dependents, which can drastically increase the annual payout). That’s minimum two hundred forty million bucks in 2017. And it’s a LOT less now than a decade ago. There are nuances to determining the payer, but it is generally the mine operator most recently employing an affected individual. A significant portion of this money has been payed by mine operators.

Sitting at work is different from exposure to coal whilst mining coal. There’s no reason most jobs require sitting for hours on end. Historically there’s a component of elitism — a hundred plus years ago, low paying jobs were physically intensive, and it was a bit of an elite thing to be able to sit at work. Now the sign of affluence is a few spare hours a week to exercise, and sitting is just a norm no one has sought to change. If a company is aware of how bad sitting is for its employees, seems like said company would have a better defense against liability if they actively attempt to re-design their workplaces and jobs to avoid sitting. Sending out a mass mail telling you how bad something is or having a webinar to tell you how bad it is … but generally employing people to sit for hours at a time isn’t much in the way of due diligence. Routinely deploying standing desks, even in training classrooms, would reduce mandatory sitting among call centre staff. Walking meetings for one-on-one or small group sessions.

 

Retainers And Loans

Giuliani’s assertion on Hannity’s show: When I heard Cohen’s retainer of thirty-five thousand, when he was doing no work for the President, I said, ‘That’s how he’s repaying it, with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes, for Michael.’

I don’t care to dig into the nuances of loan repayment, but I’ve paid lawyers retainer fees for doing no work. A retainer is money paid to ensure you have a lawyer on-hand to provide legal advice and services if you need them. Should your requirements exceed that which the retainer contract permits, you get billed extra. But I’ve never seen a retainer contract that had stipulations in case the client ended up *not* needing services during the period. If you pay 35k for a one-year contract that provides up to 40 hours per month on assignments determined by the client … well, zero is “up to 40” and you’ve paid 35k for no work. You paid for the willingness to provide work and for the work should it be needed. Which is why people who do not routinely require legal assistance don’t tend to keep a lawyer on retainer: no point dropping a couple grand a month every month you don’t need a lawyer. Wait until you are, say, writing your will and hire one for the specific task.

Technicalities of Legalities

Anyone else glad the head of the Executive Office of the United States has such a firm grasp on the law?

Obstruction of justice is corrupt interference in the proceedings or people serving at a proceeding from doing his duty. Nowhere in the US Code does it say “assuming, of course, the proceeding leads to a conviction”. If you are found guilty of a crime you didn’t commit, sentenced to five years in jail, escape jail, are subsequently found to be innocent and your initial conviction vacated … you can still be charged with escaping jail and sentenced to jail time for the offense. Now you might get time served, or a reduced sentence … but you still committed the crime of escaping the jail when incarcerated. Same deal-e-o here. If I didn’t commit a crime but was being investigated, and tried to influence witnesses or stop police from investigating the non-crime … that is a crime.

18 U.S.C. § 1503: “Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, endeavors to influence, intimidate, or impede any grand or petit juror, or officer in or of any court of the United States, or officer who may be serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate, in the discharge of his duty, or injures any such grand or petit juror in his person or property on account of any verdict or indictment assented to by him, or on account of his being or having been such juror, or injures any such officer, magistrate judge, or other committing magistrate in his person or property on account of the performance of his official duties, or corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b). If the offense under this section occurs in connection with a trial of a criminal case, and the act in violation of this section involves the threat of physical force or physical force, the maximum term of imprisonment which may be imposed for the offense shall be the higher of that otherwise provided by law or the maximum term that could have been imposed for any offense charged in such case.”

Warrants And Attorney Client Priviledge

I assume that like many other obscure laws and procedures with which the general population has become familiar over the past year (seriously, how many people knew what the Emoluments Clause, Hatch Act, or the Jones Act were two years ago?), ‘taint team’ shall now enter the public discourse. And the crime-fraud exception to attorney client privilege. And the fact that being an attorney does not automatically privilege everything said in a thousand foot radius around you.

For those who didn’t spend some time immersed in the nuances of electronic discovery law, a taint team is essentially a team involved in the investigation to serve as an air-gap protecting privileged information. Seize documents from a lawyer’s office, and something is bound to be protected. So the individuals involved in the investigation are not the ones to initially review seized documents. A team of investigators unrelated to the case review to filter out privileged communications (and, I assume, irrelevant documents). This is essentially privacy theater – should the taint team encounter some other illegal activity in the course of document review, it will not be ignored.

Which brings us to the crime-fraud exception to attorney client privilege — while a client is free to communicate with their attorney in many ways, asking one’s lawyer how to commit a crime (or how to cover up a crime) is not protected communication. If documents about laundering Russian money through Trump properties since the mid 1980’s (after 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956-1957 were enacted) are obtained from Cohen’s office … well, the documents have been obtained and privilege does not apply.

Farther, Trump’s seeming belief that having an attorney listen to a conversation aside, attorney client privilege covers communication seeking legal advice, providing legal advice, or research to provide legal advice. Otherwise rich dudes would just have a lawyer travel with them at all times and call everything privileged.

But maybe I’ve found the silver lining to Trump’s time in office — a good number of people are becoming far more informed about the country’s laws and procedures.