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a blog by Ann Althouse

"[A]s of Jan. 1, we Californians will be able to jaywalk to a film audition, jaywalk to buy pot, jaywalk to meet an angel investor for a start-up, jaywalk for hot baby yoga classes..."

"... jaywalk for the benefit of paparazzi alerted earlier about where and when the jaywalking will occur, and jaywalk to any of the countless California-centric pastimes that the rest of the country finds so amusing. Or we might jaywalk across the street just to get to the other side.... [A]n enterprising individual can shoplift goods worth up to $950 without worrying about being tagged with a felony. Parking in L.A. is always a pain; if you’re hotfooting it out of a Macy’s or Target with an armful of pilfered goods, your ability to jaywalk worry-free to your getaway car is a cultural advantage right up there with being able to make a right turn on a red light. On a more serious note, the Freedom to Walk Act is a social-justice victory. As the bill’s author, state Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) told CBS Bay Area news, jaywalking laws 'are arbitrarily enforced and tickets are disproportionately given to people of color and in low-income communities.'"

From "California greenlights jaywalking. It’s a step in the right direction" (WaPo).

Yeah, don't have a law you're not willing to enforce equally against everyone. We don't want chaos, but you've got to draw the line where you'd want it enforced against you and the people you personally favor. 

"A federal judge in the US has denied a request from a 19-year-old woman to allow her to watch her father’s death by injection..."

"... upholding a Missouri law that bars anyone under 21 from witnessing an execution.... 'I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to be with my dad in his last moments... My dad is the most important person in my life. He has been there for me my whole life, even though he’s been incarcerated.'"

 From "US federal judge denies 19-year-old’s request to attend her father’s execution" (The Guardian). The father, Kevin Johnson, murdered a police officer 17 years ago.

"Although Cambodia to this day has no law specifically limiting surrogacy, the government criminalized the practice by using existing laws against human trafficking..."

"... an offense that can carry a 20-year sentence. Dozens of surrogates have been arrested, accused of trafficking the babies they birthed. In a poor country long used as a playground by foreign predators — pedophiles, sex tourists, factory bosses, antique smugglers and, yes, human traffickers — the Cambodian authorities said they were on the lookout for exploitation....  Nearly all of those arrested in the 2018 raid gave birth while imprisoned in a military hospital, some chained to their beds. They, along with several surrogacy agency employees, were convicted of trafficking the babies. Their sentencings, two years later, came with a condition: In exchange for suspended prison terms, the surrogates would have to raise the children themselves. If the women secretly tried to deliver the children to the intended parents, the judge warned, they would be sent to prison for many years. This means that women whose financial precarity led them to surrogacy are now struggling with one more mouth to feed."

From "They Were Surrogates. Now They Must Raise the Children. In Cambodia’s weak legal system, surrogacy exists in a gray market, endangering all involved when political conditions suddenly shift and criminal charges follow" (NYT).

In one example discussed in the article, the surrogate was paid "$9,000 — about five times her annual base salary." 

Also: "Most of the Chinese babies carried by Cambodian surrogates are boys. Sex selection is banned in China, but not in Cambodia." And the agency spokesperson said: "Mixed-race children are popular with our clients." We're told "many of its egg donors came from Russia, Ukraine and South Africa. The intended fathers were Chinese, and many were gay." So the children the surrogates must raise look half-European, which the NYT says "can create additional strains."

A serious deficiency in this article: We are never give the text of the statute that Cambodia is enforcing. I see there's a quote from a sperm-donor's lawyer — "Are they serious that he is trafficking his own child?" — but it's impossible to analyze the legal question without seeing how the crime is defined in the statute. That's not about what the English words "human trafficking" seem to mean to us!

"The court said they found him guilty of rape as well as of the crime of assembling a crowd to engage in sexual promiscuity."

From "China sentences Canadian pop singer Kris Wu to 13 years in jail for rape" (NY Post).

What is the crime of assembling a crowd to engage in sexual promiscuity?

I found this discussion in a 2019 blog post "Law and sexual repression in China" by Yinan Shen (Feminist Legal Theory):

According to Article 301 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China, group licentiousness is a crime based on the view that assembling a crowd to engage in sexual promiscuity reflects public contempt for state law and social morality. Specifically, it refers to a gathering of three or more people (men and/or women) engaging in sexual activity and other promiscuous activities.

The activity of the participants must be voluntary. The state views such behavior as violating the public order. Those who gather for promiscuous activities shall experience criminal detention or public surveillance or imprisonment for not more than fives years [sic]. There has been much talk of the law being repealed.

Legal experts argue that there are no victims from voluntary group sex which generally takes place in private and hidden places and does not endanger public order. Why, then, should the law punish such harmless acts?

There are opposing voices say that these group sex acts can’t match the traditional Chinese morality. In my opinion, law is the lowest standard of morality. We can require the public to respect the law and use the standard of law. But we can not ask the public to act following all the traditional morality whatever it is correct or decadent....

The most obvious law school hypothetical when teaching the Good News Club case has come to life with the After School Satan Club.

I'm reading "Parents slam school’s ‘sick’ Satan Club for children as young as 5: ‘Disgusting’" (NY Post).

I got there via Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit:

WHOSE CHILDREN DO THOSE PARENTS THINK THOSE KIDS ARE? Parents slam school’s ‘sick’ Satan Club for children as young as 5: ‘Disgusting’.

Sorry, but this is exactly what was bargained for when by anyone who supported the after-school Christian club, approved of by the Supreme Court back in 2001.

Either you have a special rule excluding religion or you don't. In Good News Club, a Christian after-school club had been excluded and the Supreme Court saw that as discrimination against religion. Once you get that far, you can't have viewpoint discrimination. Viewpoint discrimination is worse than discrimination against religion in general. So there now you can't exclude the Satanist club.

I used to teach a Religion & the Constitution course, and I was teaching it when the Good News Club case came out. The first hypothetical that springs to mind is an After School Satan Club. Legal decisions have consequences, and sometimes they are perfectly obvious.


You think that's disgusting? Some people think all after-school religion clubs are disgusting, but they lost in the Supreme Court in 2001. And some people think government viewpoint discrimination is disgusting? Get your values in order and try to be consistent.

The Satan image is very well conceived to appeal to little kids who've been primed by children's books and cartoons. Don't you want to know what the li'l devil has to say?

Well, let's read the official web page for the group. Excerpt:

Proselytization is not our goal, and we’re not interested in converting children to Satanism. After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.

We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.

Well, hell!

More, from the handbook:

To call our club any alternative such as “science club” or “atheist club”, which has been suggested by many, would be disingenuous and akin to hiding. 

Satan, to us, is not a supernatural being. Instead, Satan is a literary figure that represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny over the human mind and spirit.

I know what you're thinking — That's just what the real Satan would say. He's such a clever deceiver.

But I say: If your Satan is so clever, how do you know he's not behind the Good News Club?

BONUS: My last point is reinforced by the #2 TV Devil on this list — Ned Flanders ("It's always the one you least expect"):

"Trump is said to have told some allies that the idea of a special counsel infuriated him, given his experience with the length of the Mueller investigation."

"He believes it could hang over him for months. Nonetheless, it might make a prosecution more distant."

Writes Maggie Haberman, in "Live Updates: Garland Names Special Counsel for Trump Inquiries/The attorney general announced his decision to name Jack Smith, the former head of the Justice Department’s public integrity section, to to job just days after former President Donald J. Trump announced that he would seek the White House again in 2024" (NYT).

ADDED: Let me connect that with this WaPo piece from 4 days ago: 

Federal agents and prosecutors have come to believe former president Donald Trump’s motive for allegedly taking and keeping classified documents was largely his ego and a desire to hold on to the materials as trophies or mementos, according to people familiar with the matter.

As part of the investigation, federal authorities reviewed the classified documents... [and did not find] any apparent business advantage to the types of classified information in Trump’s possession.... FBI interviews with witnesses so far, they said, also do not point to any nefarious effort by Trump to leverage, sell or use the government secrets. Instead, the former president seemed motivated by a more basic desire not to give up what he believed was his property, these people said....

Is this an occasion for poetry? I don't like that impunity/immunity rhyme. It feels callous, and it doesn't even make sense.

Is this an occasion for poetry? I don't like that impunity/immunity rhyme. It feels callous, and it doesn't even make sense. 

If he has impunity, he doesn't need immunity. The headline writer seems to have lost his head. But why? It's no occasion for rhapsodizing!

Here's the article. The immunity is from a civil suit brought by the fiancee of the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Trump administration shielded the Saudi leader, but President Biden initially claimed he would hold him accountable, describing him as a “pariah.”...

U.S. District Judge John Bates, who is hearing the Khashoggi case, asked the Justice Department in July for a ruling on whether MBS should be granted sovereign immunity, as his lawyers requested. On Sept. 27, three days before the deadline for the Justice Department’s response, Saudi King Salman declared his son prime minister. That triggered Thursday’s decision that MBS was entitled to sovereign immunity as a “head of government.”...
The Biden State Department deliberated whether the immunity issue was a policy question, involving significant human rights issues, rather than simply a legal matter, an administration official told me. But there was a strong legal argument that prime ministers routinely receive immunity. And in the end, as has so often been the case with MBS, the Biden administration acceded to the Saudi leader’s desires....

"Is this the end of it? And if so, why couldn’t the Biden administration foresee it being blocked so easily by the courts?"

"Why did they not have stronger legal cards to play with instead of having 43 million filers on a legal and emotional tightrope?"

A Reddit discussion of the current state of the student loan forgiveness program.

Why did Biden get 43 million hopes up?  You can hear the poignancy in the question... or do you think that's phony? Everyone knows the answer to why it was done despite the lack of "stronger legal cards." It's just a question of how outraged they will feel and who they will blame. At least some people will curse the courts — those damned conservatives  — and some will forgive Biden for toying with their feelings because it was worth it, given the modest Democratic Party success in the 2022 elections. You could also say the more obvious it was all along that the program would not hold up in court the less sense it made to invest serious expectations that you'd be getting that $10,000/$20,000 some day.

"The Senate held a key test vote on Wednesday on legislation to allow federal protections for same-sex marriage, with 12 Republicans joining all Democrats..."

"... to help move it through the 50-50 chamber. In one of their first major agenda items in the postelection session, Democrats moved fast to enact the bill — which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples — while their party still controls both chambers. Should the bill pass the Senate in a vote that is expected after Thanksgiving, it would need to pass the House in its revised form before being sent to President Biden to be signed into law. The push in Congress to pass marriage protections came after Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in an opinion overturning abortion rights that the court 'should reconsider' past rulings that established marriage equality and access to contraception."

From "Live Updates: Senate Takes Crucial Step Toward Protecting Same-Sex Marriage Rights/Democrats are moving quickly to enact federal protections while their party still controls both chambers. Republican senators voted to keep Senator Mitch McConnell as their minority leader; the party is on the brink of capturing a majority in the House" (NYT).

Why are they only just now getting around to repealing the Defense of Marriage Act? Anyway, it's good to see this happening at long last. Maybe they didn't think they needed to do it until the Democrats lost the House, or maybe they chose not to do it so that it wouldn't be an issue in the elections. But, really, what kind of people want there to be a threat to existing marriages? 

And it's nice to see Wisconsin Senator — and former student of mine — Tammy Baldwin featured on the front page of the NYT on this issue, which I strongly support.

And thanks to all the Republicans who voted for this: Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — the co-sponsors — and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Mitt Romney of Utah, Richard Burr of Virginia, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Todd Young of Indiana, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

"Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, sobbed as she described Harvey Weinstein’s 'distorted' and 'fish-like' genitals during her bombshell testimony..."

" the disgraced movie producer’s sexual assault trial Monday. Identified in court as Jane Doe 4, Siebel Newsom broke down in tears recounting how Weinstein allegedly raped her in 2005 at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills... When asked... to describe Weinstein’s physique, Siebel Newsom said: 'Lots of bruises, markings, yellow and green, lots of stretch marks on his belly, very not physically fit at all. Looked uncircumcised and strange though, kind of fish-like, the penis, something was distorted in the testicles … Lots of skin, lots of skin down there.'... Siebel Newsom, 48, said she agreed to meet Weinstein at his hotel suite to discuss a film project, and because 'he could make or ruin your career.' Once they were alone in the room, however, Siebel Newsom said, Weinstein changed out of his suit into a robe, then started to 'manipulate' and 'threaten' her, while mentioning several actresses’ names...."

From "Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife breaks down describing Harvey Weinstein’s ‘fish-like’ penis in court" (NY Post).

The most obvious law school hypothetical when teaching the Good News Club case has come to life with the After School Satan Club.Is this an occasion for poetry? I don't like that impunity/immunity rhyme. It feels callous, and it doesn't even make sense.

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