Intimidation by Emoji

angry-smileyI just read about an interesting legal case involving the crime of intimidation.

The situation in question involves a young girl who sent a message filled with emoji or emoticons of guns and knives to a school rival. It is not the first of its kind to reach the court system. Emoji of guns next to emoji of police officers and other such missives have been making their way through the court system of late.

Before you think the situation is completely ridiculous consider this question: If you send a message to someone saying “I will kill you” is it much different than sending a message with an emoji that looks similar to the person with a gun pointing at them? That’s what the courts are being asked to decide.

Intimidation is a tricky law to pinpoint and I’ve linked the Wikipedia article on the subject in the opening sentence of this post. Basically you can say something like, “I am going to kill you” but if the other person doesn’t have a reasonable fear that the action will be undertaken there is no intimidation. If they have that reasonable fear then it is potentially a crime.

I think it’s silly to dismiss this idea. We all know that something as simple as a wink or smiley face can completely change the meaning of the written word. These emoji can be used in an intimidating fashion.

My opinion on these sorts of legal tangles is fairly straight-forward. It comes down to a case by case examination. If the threat appeared reasonable and credible to the person intimidated they have some recourse, particularly if the intimidation changed their behavior. Let’s say a kid is afraid to go to school because of credible threats against their life, whether delivered by emoji or words.

Imagine if someone threatened you with death at work. That would be a serious situation and reasonably requiring investigation. The onus is on the person writing the words. Maybe putting a gun next to the head of an emoji of a balding, aging, white fellow that sort of looks like me might seem funny but perhaps I would not take it that way. Particularly if we had a history of troubles. If the goal was to change my behavior in some way we have a legal situation. That’s the whole point of intimidation laws.

I realize people, kids in particular, can say and do stupid things without meaning to threaten at all, I would generally err on the side of having to show a credible theat. I’d say avoid the courts and settle it with a handshake. But there are more serious situations and just because an emoji was used rather than words is no reason to ignore it.

What do you think?

Should Emoji based "threats" be treated with the same seriousness as those written with words?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Who is it that Wants to Chop up the Corpse of Justice Scalia against his Spouse’s Wish?

justice-scaliaMy question is relatively simple. What group of people is eager for the police to take Justice Antonin Scalia’s corpse, move it to the coroner’s office, have it chopped up into bits, the organs removed, tested in every way, and stitched back together again for the funeral?

I’ll not leave you in suspense. It’s “small government Republicans” and it surprises me not a bit.

Who is rightfully against this ridiculous overreach of state power into the lives of citizens? “Big government Democrats” and that surprises me not in the slightest either.

Furthermore I can unequivocally and without hesitation say that should it have been Justice Stephen Breyer who passed away with a Republican president in office the sides would be absolutely reversed.

Justice Scalia had a weak heart and high blood pressure. He was 79 years old. The scene of his death had absolutely no sign of criminal activity.

Justice Scalia, of all people, defended the Constitution of the United States to his death bed. And now those very people who expressed their admiration for his principled stances want his body taken by the state, against the will of his family, and mutilated?

What does this prove? It proves that principles simply do not exist anymore. The ideas our country was founded upon mean nothing. It is political expediency first, second, third, last, and forever.

The police are not allowed to enter our homes or search us without a warrant from a judge and probable cause and yet people think this is acceptable?

No! No! No! I say it thrice. I say it from the hilltops. No! You cannot chop up Justice Scalia. No! You cannot. Damn you, foul evil. Get thyself from my sight and do it right quick.

I have nothing further on this topic.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Advertisement, Outrage, or both? Terry Crouppen Superbowl Ad

crouppen-superbowl-angerIt’s been a few days since the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in the Superbowl but I wanted to take just a moment to discuss the commercial a fellow named Terry Crouppen paid to have shown during the game.

The backstory is that the owner of the Los Angeles Rams football team, Stan Kroenke, moved the team from St. Louis to Los Angeles. There was a protracted and ugly campaign between Kroenke and various interests in St. Louis on whether the team should stay or move. In the end Kroenke got his way.

The Rams football team had very little success while in St. Louis except for a short span from 1999 to 2002. They have been one of the worst teams in the league in recent years although have moved more towards the middle of the pack the last few seasons. One of the reasons Kroenke listed for moving was lack of fan support. So, obviously, there was a lot of animosity.

Crouppen’s commercial was basically him taking Kroenke to task for moving the team despite arguable good support from a fan and business base despite all the years of losing. That while Los Angeles certainly offered more revenue, Kroenke was already quite wealthy and could have kept the team in St. Louis without causing any sort of financial burden. Or was that really his point?

Now to the real reason for my blog.

I don’t doubt Crouppen’s anger at Kroenke. I’ll take him at his word. The reality of the situation is that Kroenke just doesn’t much care what Crouppen thinks and the commercial does nothing to change the fact that the team has already moved. What it does is make a lot of people in St. Louis appreciate and admire Crouppen, who is running a business. He’s a personal injury lawyer here in town who has long run advertisements on local media offering his services. Was this not really just more of the same?

He’s known, perhaps accurately or perhaps inaccurately, as an ambulance chaser. A lawyer who takes advantage of people who are desperate. A lawyer who feeds the Compensation Culture.

I do not know if these accusations are true or not but I do know it is the general perception of people here in St. Louis.

So was this attack against Kroenke a sign of moral outrage from Crouppen or merely a shrewd and, judging from the comments I’m reading, effective advertising campaign for his law firm? Or both?

You tell me!

Was Crouppen Angry, Shrewd, or Both

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Dr. Hsui-Ying ‘Lisa’ Tseng and 30 Years for Over-prescribing

dr-hsui-ying-lisa-tsengDr. Hsui-Ying ‘Lisa’ Tseng was arrested back in 2012 for writing over 27,000 prescriptions over a three year period. She was just found guilty of three counts of second degree murder because three of her patients overdosed on those drugs and died. She was sentenced to thirty years on prison.

I think there is a lot to discuss about this series of events.

Let’s first dispense with the fiction she was merely a doctor prescribing medication to needy patients. Tseng was not. She was getting rich selling drugs to those who used them for recreational purposes. She was fully aware of this fact.

There are a number of points I’d like to discuss.

  1. The hypocrisy that is the prosecution of legal vs. illegal drug sellers and buyers
  2. The fact that the pharmaceutical companies, who were and remain fully complicit partners, are not prosecuted
  3. The charges of murder as opposed to illegal prescriptions
  4. A better way to prevent such abuses

The War on Drugs has largely been prosecuted on illegal drug dealers and poor drug users. Wealthy drug users go to unscrupulous doctors and get their “legal” drugs. Legal drugs cause more overdose deaths than illegal and yet are largely immune to interdiction. This hypocrisy is easily explained. Those with money influence government policy. This means that the Scales of Justice are so uneven that those on the wrong side become disenchanted with the entire nation. This is not a recipe for a healthy nation.

The fact that pharmaceutical companies are completely immune to prosecution because of their contributions to the campaigns of our government officials further indicts the system. The sheer number of pills Tseng was prescribing was surely noted by the companies providing her and yet they did nothing. Because there was money to be made. Let’s not pretend we don’t know this is the case. We all know pharmaceutical companies are well aware their product is being used for recreational, not medical purposes, and yet we don’t charge them. They are surely the biggest drug manufacturers in the world and doctors are their pushers. Unscrupulous doctors are their best clients. They know it, you know it, the police know it, prosecutors know it, and government officials know it. Let us not live in a fantasy world.

My next problem is the charge of murder. Certainly Tseng prescribed drugs that were not needed but she did not force the person to take those drugs. She did not even seek out the client. She merely provided a service to a willing customer. Someone came to her, purchased something, and then used it to kill themselves. If overprescribing is a crime, charge her with that.

You might think that the prosecution of Tseng would make me happy. At last a rich person is being charged the way poor people and drug dealers have long been prosecuted. You would be wrong.

I think all drugs should be legal. We shouldn’t prosecute more doctors but fewer illegal drug dealers. Obviously we would not have illegal drug dealers if drugs were not illegal. The vast majority of sales would go through licensed physicians.

So, you might well, ask, if you make all drugs legal; what do we do with people like Tseng who prescribe to those without a medical need? Who prescribe to children? Am I advocating distributing drugs to anyone who can afford them at all times?

In a sense yes, but also in a sense no. Doctors take something called a Hippocratic Oath. One line of that oath is as follows: I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I’m of the opinion that drugs should remain under the purview of physicians who understand their effects and can prescribe them to patients with instructions for proper use. Physicians who fail to do so should lose standing with their local medical organization. Physicians who believe patients are using drugs for recreational purposes should recommend treatment centers and do their best to help the patient. Pharmaceutical companies should have the option to cut off supplies to doctors they believe are not helping their patients but harming them.

Is this a perfect solution? Hardly. Doctors who lose their standing will still be able to prescribe drugs and make money but at least patients will know they are dealing with such physicians. Those bent on abusing drugs will be able to do so and I do not deny that there will be many such. But how is that different than the current system?

At least under my plan patients will get medical grade pharmaceuticals and doctors will get a chance to offer aid to addicts rather than simply sending them to the underground drug trade where compassion is in short supply.

At least under my plan our jails will not be filled with illegal drug users and dealers while the “legal” users and dealers doing exactly the same thing roam free and unhindered.

At least under my plan our law enforcement officers can focus on murder, burglary, rape, and other crimes. The rift between the police and the citizens they purportedly serve will begin to heal. Police will not longer die in shootouts with well-armed and wealthy illegal drug dealers.

Will we end drug abuse ever? No.

Still, I remain convinced making all drugs legal and relying on ethical doctors to police their own ranks is a better strategy than the War on Drugs.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Johnny Manziel and Insanity Laws

Johnny-ManzielAn NFL quarterback by the name of Johnny Manziel is making news these days for his erratic behavior and his father is expressing concern for his son’s safety. In another story a former NFL player named Brandon Marshall, who struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, offered compassionate and sound advice for Manziel.

My point today isn’t to address Manziel, who clearly needs help, or Marshall who is to be admired for his acknowledgment of his own troubles and dedication to helping others, but to explain why it is so difficult to get Manziel the help he needs. Why it was so difficult to get Amanda Bynes the help she needed. Why it was so difficult to get Britney Spears the help she needed.

The picture below is a list of reasons why people could be put into insane asylums in the mid to late 19th century.

asylum-admission-reasonsIn particular women were put into such institutions simply because they behaved in a way in which male dominated society did not agree. In addition people, often women or the elderly, were put in such places simply as a way to steal their estates.

This began to change when a brave woman named Nellie Bly had herself incarcerated in an asylum and wrote a book about her experience.

After the horrors described by Bly, many states wrote laws preventing husbands from simply ridding themselves of unwanted wives both legally and without recourse.

This is the heart of my blog today. I’m a Libertarian and not an Anarchist and these sorts of laws are one of the many reasons why I feel this way. Such legal intervention from the government was absolutely necessary to protect a vulnerable group of people, in this case women and the legitimately insane who were suffering in an environment that can only be described as torture.

It is also the reason why it is so difficult to get Manziel into treatment should he not want it. He has refused such help and his father is upset that the hospital at which he most recently stayed simply allowed him to leave because he wanted to depart.

This is the both the price of freedom and the importance of minimal government oversight displayed for all to see and understand. It is vital and necessary that laws be put into place and rigorously enforced making it difficult for a person to be put into an insane asylum without their consent.

To pretend that people will not be so incarcerated without such laws is an exercise in denying human nature. Men will always want to extricate themselves from marriages without paying the price, and in this modern times, women as well. People will always want to steal the estates of their parents through such methods. To deny this is to live in a fantasy world. There are many unsavory people in this world and laws, fairly applied and with limited scope, protect us from such as they.

And yet, such protections endanger us as well. It is difficult to get someone help who is truly in need. Many obstacles must be overcome in order to get someone aid if they do not desire it. This is the price of true freedom which Libertarians and even more so, Anarchists demand. This is personal responsibility even for someone in apparent and obvious mental trouble.

I recognize that there are far too many laws with far too broad a scope. But this does not mean all governmental oversight should be abandoned.

These are difficult questions and there are no simple answers. Not for Manziel and his family or for Anarchists and Libertarians.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment, even in dissent!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

CDC, Pregnancy, and Alcohol

drinking-while-pregnantI woke up this morning to headlines blaring about the danger of alcohol to pregnant women or even women who might be pregnant. The warnings say quite explicitly that a woman who is pregnant, who is trying to get pregnant, or who is having sex but is not on birth control, should never drink. That’s the recommendation.

The warning is specific and terrifying:

Alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause lasting physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child’s lifetime.

The danger is called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

I’ve long heard that drinking was considered a bad idea for pregnant women but this new study seems to prove this theory beyond a doubt. Or at least that’s what the dire warning from the CDC would have you believe.

If you read the Wikipedia Article the results are much more in line with what a reasonable person might expect.

Women who drink four or more drinks a day are in serious danger of causing FAS in their child. Women who have two or more drinks a day early in the pregnancy also risk mild forms of FAS. The correlation between women who drink less than this is equivalent to the correlation between men who drink alcohol during a woman’s pregnancy being linked to FAS in the infant.

Yes, you heard that right. Husbands and boyfriends who have less than two drinks a day give an equal chance of impacting a child with FAS as do the women who are actually pregnant. That’s what the studies show.

Yet, with this evidence in hand, the CDC states unequivocally that women should not drink at any time if there is a remote chance of them being pregnant or if they are, indeed pregnant. Do not have a single drink!

I’m all for studies and I have no problem with government agencies issuing warnings and advice. The government does not have the power to make a woman stop drinking if she is pregnant nor should they. One of government’s jobs is to give us the information we need to protect ourselves. I support performing such studies with my tax dollars and informing the public of the results. After that it is up to us to decide how we wish to behave.

That being said, the shrill and dire language of this warning smacks of Big Brother. It is the government twisting results to match their desired outcome.

Present the facts as they exist and, for a moment, pretend that we citizens are adults capable of making good decisions based on those facts.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Femke Van den Driessche and Cheating at Sports

femke-van-den-dreisscheThere’s an absolutely fascinating sports case taking place at the World Championship Cyclo-Cross event where a woman named Femke Van den Driessche was found to have a motor in her bicycle. I’ve written in a general way about Performance Enhancing Drugs in the past and also about mechanical aid in regards to Oscar Pistorious and this latest incident is but an extension of those blogs.

It’s clear that Van den Driessche was on a bike that had a motor in it. It is clear people will cheat to get ahead at sports. This cannot be denied. What I want to talk about today is the impact such engineering is going to have on the sporting world and how we deal with it.

Soon replacement parts in humans will be able to perform more ably than their originals. Motors are being installed that cannot be spotted without a time-consuming inspections. Drugs that are undetectable enhance human performance. Someone will find away to make a shoe that allows a player to jump higher or run faster. Gloves will be created that track a ball in flight. The only end to the improvements that can be made is human imagination.

No sport and no player will be above suspicion. It is not just at the highest level of professional sports, your child might be beaten out on the local cross-country team by another kid who is using a technological advantage. All incredible performance will generate skepticism. Any improvement in skills will cause suspicion. It is endless and it is inevitable.

The recourse to all this is largely futile. For every bike inspected for a motor there will be an engineer figuring out a way to do it and avoid the inspection. For every PED test created to spot a drug there will be a method found to mask it.

Does this mean we should stop trying to ferret out those who break the rules? Should we just dispense with rules altogether and accept that such methods are a fact of sport?

I think these are good questions because I believe sport itself is important and a force of good in this world.

It’s good to encourage human achievement and sport is where this is often most visibly on display. I find few things in life more exhilarating than well-played sporting endeavors and astounding athletic achievement. It is disheartening to think such performances came about because one team or athlete used something to give them an advantage.

At work such improvement is considered a good thing but not so in sports. In work if you complete a job more quickly your receive rewards, but in sport everyone knows that a motor can propel a bicycle faster and a computer can play better than an unaided athlete. The point is to do so without such aid against your peers.

Therefore I think it’s a good idea to continue to fight against those who do not play by the rules. It is true that we cannot catch all the cheaters nor prevent all the cheating. It is true that every great performance in the future will be subject to innuendo, speculation, and outright accusations.

What else is there to do?

Tom Liberman