ABC News Video: Evil Elmo Moves From New York City To San Francisco, California; Hurls Obscenities At Kids Walking By

Previously, a guy dressed up in an Elmo costume and paraded around New York City and Central Park, hurling obscenities at kids. He was arrested some number of times for this behavior. This goofball became known as Evil Elmo. The annoying guy apparently packed his bags and is now in San Francisco, California, according to the ABC news video posted below. The clip was added to their website on October 18, 2012.

Legal Issues:

Simply using curse words around a child is generally going to be considered protected speech. But there is a difference between using words and directing obscenities towards a child. The latter could cross the line into harassment. This is why this Evil Elmo guy puts himself in legal jeopardy with these stupid profanity-laced tirades. At any given time, it would be difficult to say whether he is committing a crime. It just depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each individual situation.

CNN News Legal And Education Video: Cranston, Rhode Island School Cancels Father-Daughter Dance; Gender Discrimination?

The following CNN video deals with both education and legal issues. Someone complained to the ACLU that a father-daughter dance was gender discrimination. In response, the Cranston, Rhode Island school in question decided to cancel this event. The video was added to the CNN website on September 19, 2012.

I could see this argument being valid if there is no corresponding mother-son event scheduled around the same basic time frame. There could be plenty of valid reasons to hold a segregated dance for fathers and daughters. It allows focus on that specific relationship. And if boys are at the same dance, then of course the girls aren’t going to want to hang out with their dads.

But if the mothers and sons are not afforded a similar opportunity, there seems to be a plausible argument that it is discrimination. So while there are obviously valid reasons to have a gender-based dance like the one that was planned here at this Cranston, Rhode Island school, you still need to provide equal opportunity.

Note: The argument made in this case was that one of the daughters did not have a father or any father figure in her life. I don’t see this as discrimination at all. It’s no more discrimination than saying a guy who is born slow can’t run on the track team because he is not fast enough. A school is not required to provide a parent. But in this case, they could assign a teacher or other person of her choice. I can’t see how this is discrimination. It’s like saying “I don’t have a father, so it’s not fair that you have one.” Ludicrous argument.

IRS Tax News: Fraud Ex-Convict, Bradley Birkenfeld, Gets $104 Million Whistleblower Award

This story is likely to bring mixed emotions. On the one hand, former Swiss banker and ex-convict Bradley Birkenfeld arguably deserves the $104 million whistleblower award he got from the IRS. On the other hand, he was apparently involved in some of the very same activity that he was exposing. Thus, it appears that Birkenfeld was just the first bad guy to start singing like a canary, thus ultimately getting this huge IRS whistleblower award.

Like most cases, there are several things to think about in deciding whether this award is justified. I don’t mean whether awards per se are justified. I will assume they are for purposes of this argument. What I mean to ask is whether one of the bad guys in a criminal enterprise deserves to get rewarded for essentially participating in at least some of the criminal activities for which he is whistleblowing.

A lot of times, it’s going to be a bad guy that has the information the IRS needs to find out about tax cheats. So setting up a system whereby you have to be squeaky clean to get an award is going to discourage bad guys from becoming a whistleblower. This is bad from the perspective that more tax evaders will get away with their misdeeds, thus leaving the U.S. government with the short end of the stick at tax time.

On the other hand, rewarding criminals could even encourage criminal activity. I think the happy medium here is to allow a criminal to get a whistleblower fee for any crimes in which he personally is not culpable of. For example, a bit player who only participated in a small transaction that was part of a large criminal enterprise would not be able to get an award for that crime. But he could get an award for related crimes in which he did not participate but happens to be in a situation where he can provide relevant evidence to the IRS. Presumably, this is the way the IRS already does it. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to see an ex-convict like Birkenfeld get this $104 million because it seems he may be more involved in these crimes than the IRS is letting on. Even federal prosecutors say he has failed to disclose information. But as long as he did not participate, then I don’t have a problem with him getting the money.

Sources:

Associated Press

Dog News: New Jersey Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer Has Bill To Require Seat Belt (Safety Harness) For Dogs Riding In Cars

The New York Daily News has reported on two different bills aimed at protecting dogs and other animals when they are being transported in the state of New Jersey.

One of these bills would specifically require drivers to use a seat belt (to be specific, a “safety harness”) when taking dogs on a ride in the car. This bill is supported by Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer. While the state already has a generic law about inhumane transport, it is one of those vague laws that does not specifically address use of a safety belt. While it is possible that law enforcement could claim that letting dogs roam free in the car is inhumane, that is a tough argument to make since the Assembly could have easily said you have to use a safety harness for dogs. So Spencer says the law needs to specifically mandate this safety device.

Not everyone agrees. The competing bill is sponsored by Jay Webber, and it would say that use of a safety harness does not constitute animal cruelty.

I don’t really have a strong opinion either way on this issue. Some dogs love to stick their head out the window and let the wind hit their face. Is it dangerous? Of course, it can be dangerous. But there are other problems with using a dog safety belt or harness. What if there is an accident and fire? A human who survives the crash with a seat belt can attempt to remove it and exit the car. But a dog cannot release the harness. So while seat belts have saved lives, there is a difference between humans and dogs. I suspect the sum total effect of a dog safety harness is that it will save more lives or prevent more injury than it would occasionally cause by the fact that the dog can’t release himself.

We aren’t talking really serious repercussions if the bill does pass. It would involve a $20 ticket and a possible additional penalty of up to $1000. So people would not be going to jail for animal cruelty for not using a safety harness on their dog.

Sources:

NY Daily News Report On This New Jersey Dog Safety-Harness Issue

Jannelle Carrillo Sues Dallas Cowboys, Claiming Bench At Cowboys Stadium Burned Her Butt

Jannelle Carrillo says she was burned when sitting on a bench outside Cowboys Stadium. She claims the club and Jerry Jones are liable because the marble bench was uncovered on a hot, sunny day.

I am skeptical of this claim, although I obviously don’t know all the facts. But let’s put it this way. I don’t see someone getting her buttocks burned by a marble bench unless she sits there a long time while her legs were already very hot or if she was wearing next to nothing. The article does not state what she was wearing. The other possibility, of course, is that she has grossly exaggerated the extent of her injuries. But because her lawyer claims she had skin grafts, we can safely assume she did have some serious injuries.

However, let’s just assume for the sake of argument that Jannelle Carrillo did get injured. The other legal issue is whether the Dallas Cowboys were negligent in either having a black marble bench on the premises or failing to cover it. I personally don’t think constructing a marble bench is negligence. It is a common building material, and benches are not necessarily made to be sat on under all conditions. Part of the appeal of the bench is in its appearance and artistry, not just as something to sit down on. So courts are now going to say you can’t have marble or metal on a bench? Wood or plastic only? It’s ridiculous.

The second claim from Carrillo would be that the bench was left uncovered on a day with triple-digit temperatures. This has more merit. The Dallas Cowboys organization should be aware that marble benches get hot on summer days. They could have covered it to protect themselves. However, I am not sure what they would cover the benches with since that is not the normal procedure.

In the end, I believe the Cowboys and Jerry Jones are not negligent for this woman’s buttocks burn injuries because this was an open and obvious danger. EVERYONE should know that a marble bench gets hot when the outside temperature is hot. It is so obvious that the Cowboys need not give a warning or cover the bench. Companies don’t have to remove all possible danger from their premises. They merely have to avoid unreasonable risks. Since it is not unreasonable to assume everyone will be aware of such an open and obvious danger, my opinion is that Carrillo is the one at fault for causing her own injuries.