Lucas Lascivious

Foe of moderation, champion of excess

Month: August, 2013

The Ambiguity of the Fourth Amendment

Is a warrantless cellphone search a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights?

That’s the situation that was contested in 2007 after police arrested a man in Massachusetts who stood accused of selling crack cocaine from his car, along with two counterparts. Police seized his phone and examined its contents without a warrant, after arresting him for driving on a suspended license and the two other men on drug charges. The accused man repeatedly received calls from a contact labeled “My House,” which in turn led police to the man’s home. Once there, they found a slew of drugs, cash, and firearms. The man was eventually convicted, but appealed his sentence, alleging that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. On appeal, a federal court agreed with the defendant, ruling earlier this year that a warrant should have been obtained by police before accessing the man’s phone.

However, earlier this month, the Obama administration filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking them to make a ruling in favor of warrantless searches of cellphones based on the Massachusetts ruling. Their basic argument is that the Supreme Court has, in the past, ruled on a number of cases that allow for sweeping exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, meaning the man’s conviction should have been upheld and that warrantless cellphone searches should be considered legal.

For example, in the case of Carroll v. United States,  the Court established that police must have a warrant to search a vehicle except in instances of exigent circumstance and when it is “reasonable to believe evidence relevant to the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle.” It’s a sort of legal grey area. In the Massachusetts case it could be subjectively argued that, because the defendant was suspected of dealing drugs (though only arrested because of a suspended license), a cellphone could reasonably be considered potential evidence, in addition to his automobile, given both could be considered staples of the drug trade. Alternately, police technically could have taken the driver into custody on the suspended license charge and legally searched his car while he was detained (United States v. Johns). Even with further clarification in the case of Arizona v. GantCarroll v. United States can still be upheld because Arizona v. Gant does not prevent or repeal the use of Carroll v. United States in court cases. Furthermore, as The Washington Post points out, “earlier cases have given the police broad discretion to search possessions on the person of an arrested suspect, including notebooks, calendars and pagers. The government contends that a cellphone is no different than any other object a suspect might be carrying.”

It’s not just the establishment of the automobile exception, however, as justified exceptions to the Fourth Amendment exist in a number of prominent Court rulings that are still applicable: Horton v. California, Illinois v. Rodriguez, Davis v. United States, etc. This sort of legal and constitutional dubiousness isn’t limited to the Fourth Amendment by any means, but Court-ordered stipulations pertaining to the Fourth Amendment have been some of the most hotly debated. What if you’re a physician, attorney, priest, banker, psychologist, psychiatrist,  etc.? Under the laws of client confidentiality, the consent of the client must be given unless there is “clear” legal reasoning. What is  considered clear legal reasoning by governmental standards as opposed to what’s considered individual clear legal reasoning? Again, subjectivity.

What needs to be made clear is what exactly defines probable cause pertinent to exigent circumstance as it relates to cellphones centrally. The hazy legal language does not blatantly make clear when it is appropriate for law enforcement to do so. What’s more, it lacks practicality, as has been noted, to hastily push for warantless searches based on the Massachusetts ruling, given it took place in 2007 and cellphone technology has vastly improved since then, which only seeks to further discredit the practicality of cellphone searches, as the law would have to be updated consistently and often. It’s not only a waste of time and resources, it’s virtually impossible. Thus, the warrantless seizure is not only futile, but subsequently very much in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

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Probity void of humanity is not morality at all.

On August 12, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law Bill 1266, which is designed to offer special protections for transgender students in the state. Though the bill–nicknamed “The Bathroom Bill”–won’t legally take effect until January 1, 2014, it’s already been met with both impassioned support and rigid disapproval, with critics arguing it would allow for potentially harmful intermingling of the sexes in school facilities respectively designated for either males or females, such as bathrooms and locker rooms. Specifically, the bill states:

This bill would require that a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.

Statistics have consistently shown that not only are LGBTQ students in general significantly more likely to be emotionally and/or physically harassed than their heterosexual counterparts, but that transgender students are particularly susceptible to persecution. Although states like Connecticut, Washington, Massachusetts, and Colorado have integrated policies designed to protect transgender students, California is the first state to pass transgender-specific legislation on a statewide level.

For the most part, the denunciation of this bill from critics is the result of what most transgender discrimination stems from: a lack of understanding. What dissenters are trying to portray the bill as is an excuse for a boy to one day wake up, decide, “I’m going to be a girl today,” and therefore would be allowed under the law to use the girls’ restroom, locker room, etc. Former presidential nominee Mike Huckabee echoed this misguided sentiment on his Fox News show, Huckabee, saying:

“If the child–a boy–walks in and says, ‘You know what, I really am feeling my girl’s side,’ he gets to go shower with the girls when he’s 14. I mean, I’m just thinking of all the 14-year-old boys I went to school with, and how many of them would have awakened with that revelation.”

What this absurd notion fails to take into account is that most transgender people don’t simply decide at random on a whim that they no longer want to identify as their birth-given sex. In fact, most transgender children have established their gender identity by age four. Even more eye roll-inducing is California assemblyman Tim Donnelly’s proclamation that, due to the bill’s passage, he will be removing one of his sons from the public school system after his son’s “horrified” reaction at the prospect of sharing bathrooms with female students, a highly skewed interpretation of the bill that amounts to an outright lie.

What opponents of the bill and a large portion of the population don’t understand about transgenderism is that gender identity is first and foremost determined by a person’s psychology, not physiology. Not only are foes of the bill protesting it with an argument that has absolutely no scientific basis, but there is also “no single reported incident of any misconduct” in districts where similar legislation has been introduced.

Laws designed to protect children who are notably and principally vulnerable to abuse when it does not negatively affect anyone else is not a moral infringement; rather, it’s a human obligation. Probity void of humanity is not morality at all.

You’re capable of more than ironing and blowjobs

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Meet Nina Siahkali Moradi. If you’ve never heard of her, you’re not alone. She’s an Iranian politician and activist who managed to score the 14th spot out of 163 candidates, making her an alternate member of the Qazvin city council in the case one of the other city council members either resigned or was disqualified. She was officially designated as what amounts to an understudy in the instance another member on the council resigned or was forced out. But, when a member of the city council stepped down, thus leaving room for Moradi to take his place, she was deemed by the remaining council as “too attractive” to serve, and the council promptly nullified the (rather impressive) 10,000 votes she received under the aforementioned guise. A senior Qazvian was actually quoted as saying, “We don’t want a catwalk model on the council.”

It’s easy to write this off as simply being a product of misogynistic Middle Eastern culture, but the fact of the matter is that this also happens more often than it should in the Western world.

Take for instance the case of Melissa Nelson, an Iowa dental assistant who was fired by her boss, James Knight, per the insistence of his wife (who also happened to work at the same dental office) and pastor, as he found her to be too “irresistible” to work with, which may in turn lead to the possibility he may cheat on his wife. He even alluded to the fact Nelson was dressing so provocatively–you know, in standards scrubs–that his “pants were bulging.” Eventually, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court upheld Knight’s decision to fire her, believing that he legitimately had reason to terminate her because she apparently posed a threat to Knight’s marriage.

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Above is a photo of James Knight. Total dreamboat, right? *eye roll*

When we think about blatant sexism and misogyny, the sad fact of the matter is that we in the Western world don’t seem to realize it’s happening right in front of us on a daily basis. Clearly women in the Western world enjoy many more basic civil and human rights than their counterparts elsewhere in the world, but just because we don’t stone a woman to death for giving an opinion doesn’t mean we’re in any way less oppressive. Oppression in itself is a detriment and penultimately the greatest form of punishment.

The “she’s too attractive” defense when a woman is denied a position or even fired is, in essence, a man’s way of saying, “I can’t stop sexualizing you long enough to see you as a qualified human being worthy of judgment based on more than just what my penis fancies.” What’s more unfortunate is that we expect men to act in this manner. A penis doesn’t automatically bestow upon a male the right to act as a neanderthal.

When a man says a woman is too attractive that he can’t control himself, it’s not an instance of the woman being too attractive, it’s the man in question being incapable of controlling his boner. Subliminally, society has taught us that this sort of thinking is okay: a man absolutely cannot control his insatiable boner without acting upon it because clearly men are the only gender who experience sexual attraction. The issue isn’t that a woman is attractive, it’s that you can’t stop sexualizing her long enough to see her as a qualified human being worthy of judgment based on more than just what your penis fancies.

This is my message to men: stop perpetuating the stereotype that you’re a hyper-masculine tool. This is my message to women: you’re capable of more than ironing and blowjobs.

Reality vs. Porn

It’s been argued that in the age of high-speed access to pornography via the Internet, an insatiable desire to take sex to new extremes or mimic pornographic scenarios has in turn taught us to be tolerant of what would have once been considered radical sexual behavior. Norman Doidge, a noted Canadian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, has even suggested that pornography has, in essence, surpassed our inherent evolutionary biology when it comes to the way our brain sexually progresses, instead pointing to what he calls an “acquired taste” that we’ve been embedded with because of porn. It’s an interesting notion, but what it seems as though Doidge doesn’t take into consideration is that social factors, in addition to biological factors, also very plainly have an enormous effect on the way our brain develops. The concept of “innate bisexuality,” a term coined by Freud, is perchance the best example of this given the subject at hand. Essentially, Freud theorized that every human being is born of a bisexual nature, and that due to environmental and social influences, humans either adopt or keep dormant that bisexuality to varying degrees. This school of thought was also espoused by Alfred Kinsey in his later research.

As it pertains to pornography, it’s unfair to accuse porn of causing us to surpass our natural biological progression without also considering the fact that it may just be that we’re hard-wired with these sexual ideas that porn introduces us to, but because of the unfortunate taboo that still prevails with sex, we’ve been taught to keep these thoughts hidden or inert.

The bottom line is that porn doesn’t set the standard for what “normal” or “healthy” sex should be, nor is it intended to. At its core, porn is entertainment. In the same manner that owning a firearm doesn’t make you Jason Bourne, having a penis doesn’t make you James Deen; in either instance, there’s a presumption that rational people will be able to differentiate between fantasy and reality. But because porn is synonymous with sex, suddenly it’s a beacon for all things immoral: murder, rape, sexual assault, pedophilia, bestiality, etc., though no significant or direct correlation between pornography and these things has ever been proven.

Pornography is a job. At any job, those who are most qualified are going to be chosen to perform that job, which is why you’re is more likely to see men with nine-inch penises and well-toned bodies in porn instead of men with protruding guts and dicks that rival a Vienna sausage. Consider the statistics:

  • The average male penis in the U.S. is between five and seven inches. The average pornstar’s penis is between six and nine inches.
  • On average, 65 percent of women and 85 of men have natural pubic hair.
  • Normal people take 10 to 12 minutes to become fully aroused.
  • 75 percent of men ejaculate within three minutes.
  • Only 22 percent of women say they would agree to have their face ejaculated on, while only 30 percent say they would swallow.

What’s more, a lot of times porn scenes are not shot consecutively, so when people are finding that their sexual encounters are lasting only a few minutes instead of half an hour, it’s not that they’re sexually deficient, but rather that porn scenes are usually shot over several takes and seamlessly spliced together to create the illusion of continuity. Add to that the makeup, professional lighting, and perfect positioning of bodies, and what’s left is a product that is generally-speaking a far cry from what real sex usually is.

So, while it’s true that porn may inspire you and your partner to potentially try something new and adventurous sexually, realistically it is not meant to be a how-to guide, just as watching an episode of House is not intended to show you how to treat someone for porphyria.

Russia: Too Little Too Late

By now, every civilized nation in the Western world is aware of Russia’s unspeakably prejudicial “anti-homosexual propaganda” law, which essentially allows anyone who’s even so much as suspected of being gay or supports human equality to be legally prosecuted and punished. Aside from the legal ramifications, though, comes the broader consequences of a law that espouses LGBT persecution. While the Russian government obviously cannot reasonably expect to punish every person suspected of being gay or those who sympathize with them, the rhetoric it establishes socially is immeasurably more detrimental than the illegality it establishes.

With that being said, Russia happens to be the sight of the Winter Olympics next year. About a week ago, Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, made it clear that Russia’s staunchly inequitable anti-gay laws would be inflicted upon any athletes or fans who dared defy them. Cut to a week later, when Igor Ananskikh, the head of the Russian Duma Committee, said this:

“The Olympics is a major international event. Our task is to be as politically correct and tolerant as we can be. That’s why we made the decision not to raise this issue during the Games.”

Russia has already sunk tens of billions of dollars into the Winter Olympics (mind you, a majority of the Russian population still falls below the poverty line), so a bit of damage control was inevitably necessary. Eventually Mutko retracted his initial statements, but even if Mutko hadn’t reiterated Russia’s societal ignorance, the damage has been done. Olympic athletes and the floods of gay people who will undoubtedly flock to the Russian Winter Olympics still face insurmountable harm, albeit secondhand ruination.

The International Olympic Committee doesn’t seem to fold easily based on international protests and outcries, but the fact of the matter is, the disgrace isn’t primarily theirs to own; instead, it’s a humanitarian duty to protect not only international athletes, but also spectators. At the very least, we owe it to the minute amount of people who will actually attend these sporting events, but more so to humanity.

Why I’m Boycotting Those Boycotting Russian Vodka

Stolichnaya, to be precise.

In case you haven’t heard, Dan Savage wrote an article advocating the embargo of Russian-made vodkas, specifically Stoli. In that past, Savage has been incredibly effective in his sly protest tactics (most notably and hilariously Google-bombing the word “santorum,” as in Rick Santorum, so that the term redirected to a sexually explicit alternate meaning invented by Savage himself), and while the proposed boycott on Stoli is admirable in its intention and has undoubtedly brought more widespread attention to a severely overlooked topic, the reality is that it’s by and large an ineffectual remonstration.

In the first place, penalizing a privately-held company (the Luxembourg-based SPI Group is, in fact, the company under which Stoli for the U.S. and hundreds of other counties, while the government-owned FKP Soyuzplodoimport produces Stoli for Russia and a minute fraction of other counties where the brand is sold) that has a long history of pro-equality activism is not going to persuade the Russian government to change their stance on human rights, not to mention that all Stoli produced for worldwide consumption is done so in Latvia, with the exception of Russia. History has proven that Russian autocrats aren’t particularly fond of dissenting oligarchs, nor have they shown any inkling of hesitation when it comes to punishing, imprisoning, or (allegedly) murdering them.

Secondly, to presume that a Russian brand is automatically anti-gay is akin to the level of stupidity Americans exhibited by rebranding things like French fries as “freedom fries” post-9/11. What’s more, there are plenty of countries that were leaps and bounds ahead of the United States in terms of same-sex equality, among other human rights issues, yet you didn’t see them boycotting American-made products or the country itself, the reason being it’s a futile attempt to protest an issue that’s much larger and more complex than just demonizing a particular product or country.

The problem with this sort of hysteria is that people to abscond their usual, logical state of mind, which in turn leads to rashness. From a judicious standpoint, a more effective means of boycotting would be something along the lines of the Magnitsky Act, which penalized those found tied to human rights violations with passport revocations and asset freezes. A Magnitsky Act-esque blacklisting tailored to castigate those found in violation of human rights against the LGBT community is doubtlessly more productive than a boycott of a exiguous blip on the Russian government’s radar. At the very least, a proposed boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics would be more perspicacious a statement, as it would directly affect Putin and his cronies’ personal interests in the venture, in addition to Russia’s haut monde and business elite.

To their credit, Stoli’s Luxembourg-based CEO issued an open letter adamantly reiterating the company’s espousal of and dedication to same-sex equality. What’s important to realize in this situation is that, while grassroots campaigns can be effective, it’s necessary that one realizes who exactly it is they should be campaigning against.

Click below to read the full statement from Stoli’s CEO.

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