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Tag: rights

He wanted a lawyer, dawg, not a lawyer dog

entrapmentClearly, there’s a bit of a cultural divide between the gritty streets of New Orleans and the plush chambers of the Louisiana Supreme Court.

And that might explain why the state justices denied a request to hear the appeal of a man awaiting trial who says remarks he made to police after he asked for “a lawyer dog” were used against him.

Apparently the state Supreme Court, didn’t buy his contention that he was asking for “a lawyer, dawg.”

So, for the lack of a comma in a transcript, he’s facing a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Asking for “a lawyer dog,” the state’s high court said, was an “ambiguous” request.

Here, based on police transcripts, is exactly what Warren Demesme told a detective:

“This is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog cause this is not what’s up.”

In an attempt to suppress what police said was a confession, Demesme contended that police denied his constitutional right to an attorney when they questioned him two years ago.

But to the Supreme Court, asking for a “lawyer dog” wasn’t a clear enough request to make clear he was attempting to exercise his Miranda rights.

Apparently, under the courts thinking, he could have been asking to be represented by an actual lawyer dog — maybe an F. Lee Beagle or a Johnnie Cockerspaniel, or that lawyer dog who appears in recurring dog memes. (That’s him, above)

All of this would be laughable (or mildly amusing) if not for the serious of the case.

Warren DemesmeDemesme, 24, was arrested in October 2015 on allegations that he sexually assaulted two juvenile victims, including the rape of one preteen girl. He faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the rape charge, NOLA.com reports.

Justices voted 6-1 last week to deny the writ application of Demesme, who awaits trial in Orleans Parish on charges of first-degree rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile under 13.

Demesme was seeking to suppress a purportedly incriminating statement made to NOPD sex crimes detective Nijel Baddoo. Demesme admitted to sexually assaulting one of the child accusers, but denied doing so to the other, according to arrest documents.

State Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton concurred with the majority opinion issued late Friday that Demesme did not clearly invoke his right to counsel.

Crichton cited a 2002 state Supreme Court decision that requires a certain level of clarity in a suspect or defendant’s request for counsel.

“As this court has written, ‘If a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal in that a reasonable police officer in light of the circumstances would have understood only that the suspect might be invoking his right to counsel, the cessation of questioning is not required,'” Crichton wrote.

In both recorded interviews with police, Demesme was read his Miranda rights, said he understood them and waived those rights, Crichton said.

“In my view, the defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a ‘lawyer dog’ does not constitute an invocation of counsel that warrants termination of the interview,” he wrote.

Blake Shelton names his new honky-tonks after classic (but not his own) country song

Not since a fried chicken chain opened under the name Bojangles, has a name been so blatantly borrowed from the music world for personal gain.

Blake Shelton is opening a chain of restaurant/music venues/retail stores later this month under the name Ole Red — a slightly altered spelling of his hit song “Ol’ Red,” which wasn’t really his song either.

I don’t know if Bojangles restaurants pay any form of royalties to Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote and first recorded “Mr. Bojangles,” or, for that matter, if Shelton’s new restaurants give much of a nod (financial or otherwise) to George Jones, who originally recorded “Ol’ Red,” but it makes me wonder.

sheltonmugAre song names fair game? Can anyone appropriate them for their own personal or business use? Can I, without repercussions, or lawsuits, open a business named after a song?

Perhaps a hoagie restaurant called “Yellow Submarine,” a home cleaning service called “Another One Bites the Dust,” or a vitamin and health food dispensary named “Stayin’ Alive?”

It may be legal, but it’s still a little presumptuous.

What Shelton is doing would be the equivalent of David Lee Roth opening a chain of Hooters-like restaurants and calling it California Girls.

Blake Shelton took George Jones’ song — written by James “Bo” Bohan, Don Goodman and Mark Sherrill — and turned it into a hit of his own in 2009.

jonesgraveThe song tells the delightful story of an inmate who enlists a prison bloodhound — whose job was to track down prisoners — to assist in his own escape.

It is narrated by an inmate who is serving a 99-year sentence for a violent act committed when he caught his wife with another man. After gaining a position of trust, though, he is allowed to take the bloodhound, Ol’ Red, for his evening run.

The inmate secretly arranges for a cousin in Tennessee to bring an especially alluring female blue tick hound to the outskirts of the prison and put her in a pen. The inmate, during that evening run, begins regularly dropping Ol’ Red off there for nightly trysts.

Ol’ Red gets so smitten with the blue tick hound that when the inmate makes his own escape, he knows Ol’ Red will be released to chase him down — and he knows Red will head in the opposite direction, straight for his new girlfriend.

The escape is successful, as the final line of the song points out:

“Love got me in there, love got me out.”

(You can hear George Jones’ version — still preferred by many — here.)

Jones died in 2013.

namethedogsI’m sure Shelton had to pay some person or entity to record the song, but I’m not so sure if any deals were involved in naming his two new establishments after the song.

Maybe altering the name — from Ol’ Red to Ole Red — served as a loophole, even if it does lead some people to give it the Spanish pronunciation: Olé.

Shelton opened the first location of his new honky-tonk chain yesterday in in Tishomingo, Okla. A second will open later this month in Nashville.

And today he released a new album, entitled, interestingly enough, “I’ll Name the Dogs.”

I don’t know what that song is about, but once it shows up on the Internet I’ll bring it to you — just in case you, like me, have an interest in dog songs, or if maybe you want to use that name when you open your own hot dog stand.

Oh wait, here it is now:

How nice. Not what I’d call a dog song, though. Shelton sings of how he and the woman he is proposing to will divide household duties once they are married: “You name the kids; I’ll name the dogs.”

This is what country singers do. They sing about their undying love for their woman. Then they sing about breaking up with that woman. Then they sing about their forevermore loyalty to the next woman.

(George Jones has Blake Shelton beat in this category too, having married at least four times, once to Tammy Wynette, who was married five times and who recorded the No. 1 song of 1968, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” She married Jones the next year. It lasted six years.)

When they’re not singing about love realized and love lost, country singers turn to simpler topics, like beer and whiskey, their truck, fishin’ and their dog.

They also sing each other’s songs, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But when they establish an entire franchise based on somebody else’s song? One could argue that’s going too far. One could say that’s bad manners. One could say, in more countrified terms, “That dog don’t hunt.”

(Photos, At top, Shelton shows off some of the merchandise at his new honky-tonk, USA Today; middle, George Jones’ dog, Bandit, visits his grave, Facebook; bottom, cover of Shelton’s new album)

Dog walks into a bar

acebar


Our forefathers may have overlooked listing it in the Constitution, but I’d rank it up there with free speech, religious freedom and the right to bear arms… maybe even above the right to bear arms:

It’s the right to get a beer at a bar with your dog — one of life’s true pleasures, assuming you love beer and love dogs (and assuming it’s cool with the bar owner).

SONY DSCI’ve always felt, and often written, that allowing dogs into a drinking establishment — especially one that doesn’t serve food — is a decision that should be left up to individual tavern operators.

Local health departments, often, don’t see it that way, as was recently the case in New York City, where The Gate, a tavern in Park Slope, was told it can no longer allow patrons to come in with their dogs.

The city Department of Health based their order on a law prohibiting any live animal from being in a food service establishment.

The Gate is not a restaurant, but, under the law, beer, wine, booze and ice are considered foods.

Silly? Yes.

Unconstitutional? Should be, I say, tongue not entirely in cheek.

All 50 states allow residents to carry concealed guns outside their homes. Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio have laws specifically allowing guns in bars. Bar patrons in South Carolina and North Carolina also aren’t required to disarm when entering a bar.

Twenty states, including New York and New Jersey, do not address the question of guns in bars at all.

It makes me uncomfortable, living in a world (and a state) where guns have more rights, privileges and protections than dogs.

And it gives me pause (not paws, for that would be a pun), that local health departments can get so worked up about a hound sleeping on a bar floor when Ebola is at our doorstep. Don’t they have more important things to do?

But back to The Gate.

After the health department laid down the law at the corner of 5th Avenue and 3rd Street, management posted a sign on the door of the tavern, saying, “with apologies to our furry friends,” dogs could no longer be allowed.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn pet owners have started a petition on the website Park Slope for Pets (see the upper right corner of that page) asking the Health Department to “allow dogs at The Gate” and reclassify bars that don’t serve food. As of this morning, nearly 600 signatures had been collected.

“We support The Gate’s dog-friendly status in the neighborhood as well as all other non-food drinking establishments that welcome dogs,” the petition’s sponsors say. “We are not looking for an exception for The Gate but rather a revision to the statute with regard to all non-food drinking establishments.”

SONY DSCI hold an even more radical stance. I’m for letting well-behaved dogs into places that do serve food, and even inside, as opposed to the patio (given it’s OK with the owner).

I’m more concerned with what’s going on unseen in the kitchen than the possibility of evil germs hopping off a dog and onto my plate of mozzarella sticks.

If its OK for service dogs to go inside restaurants, it should be OK for all well-socialized dogs — because all dogs, in a way, are service dogs.

My dog Ace, a one-time therapy dog who now counsels only me (and at a very reasonable fee) grew up spending some time (but not an inordinate amount of time) at a neighborhood bar in Baltimore I patronized.

I like to think he added to the bar’s character, and warmth, and friendliness, and vice versa. Admittedly, he also served as a social crutch for me, making conversations easier to start, making me more comfortable, keeping me from getting too tongue tied.

Just as dogs need to be socialized, so do we. And dogs and bars — independently and especially in combination — can help those of us who have difficulty in that area achieve that.

Dogs in bars lead to more social dogs, and more social people. (With the exception of those humans who are aghast by the prospect of a dog in a bar or restaurant and feel the need to file an official complaint, as opposed to just avoiding the establishment.)

“One of my favorite parts about going to The Gate was that I could enjoy a quiet night out without the lingering guilt of knowing my dog was waiting for me at home,” one dog owner told Park Slope Stoop. “… It’s disappointing that they are losing part of their character because of the DOH’s overreach in enforcing the Health Law.”

thegateWhile the city health department is barking out orders, the proprietor of The Gate, we’re pleased to read, isn’t just going to roll over.

The Gate’s owner, Bobby Gagnon, reportedly plans to fight the health department edict when he appears before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings on Nov. 18 — not so much to be granted an exception as to clarify the law.

Dog owners need to push back from time to time, as opposed to just letting themselves be pushed around. I think that happens because dog owners are generally calm, easy-going, reasonable, level-headed people (thanks, at least in part, to their dogs), and because they realize having a dog — whether it’s a right or not — is truly a privilege.

Maybe if dog owners got political, played dirty, sported bumper stickers and insisted on exercising the right to have a Bud with their bud, we could resolve the problem, short of a Constitutional amendment.

Maybe if dog owners could be as strident and overbearing as gun lobbyists, they could enjoy more freedoms with their dogs.

Maybe, when authorities come to take our dogs out of a bar in which he or she is otherwise welcome, we should say, “Sure, you can take my dog out of this establishment … when you pry the leash out of my cold dead fingers.”

Maybe someday the Supreme Court will address the burning questions: Is ice food? And even if so, do we have a right to walk into a bar with our dog?

I’m sure critics will say it’s frivolous of me to compare taking your terrier to a tavern with our right to tote firearms, or our Constitutionally granted freedoms of religion and speech.

But are they really that different?

My dog protects me, like a gun. My dog nourishes and consoles me, like a religion. And he frees up my speech better than the First Amendment ever did.

(Photos: Ace and his friend Stringer at a Recreation Billiards, a dog friendly bar in Winston-Salem, Ace at The Dog Bar in Charlotte, and a Great Dane at The Dog Bar, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; sign outside The Gate in New York, from Park Slope Stoop)

Dogs are people too, researcher says

howdogsloveusA neuroscientist who has been spent two years trying to scan images of their brains says dogs seem to have feelings and emotions, not unlike those of a human child.

Gregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, has been able to scan the brains of a dozen dogs using an M.R.I, which is quite an achievement in itself. But in looking at those scans he says he has reached the conclusion that,  “Dogs are people, too.” 

“The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child,” he wrote in an op-ed piece that appeared in Saturday’s New York Times. “And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.”

Berns’ research, which started with his own adopted dog Callie, is detailed in his soon to be released book “How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain.”

Bern set out to determine how dogs’ brains work, and what they might be thinking. To that end, he began training dogs to undergo — and stay still during —  M.R.I. scans, willingly and while awake and unrestrained.

“Conventional veterinary practice says you have to anesthetize animals so they don’t move during a scan. But you can’t study brain function in an anesthetized animal,” he notes. “At least not anything interesting like perception or emotion.”

Initially, he worked with his own dog, Callie,  a black terrier mix he adopted from a shelter, using a simulated M.R.I. he built in his living room. As word spread about his research, others volunteered their pets and Berns soon had a dozen dogs “M.R.I.-certified.”

“After months of training and some trial-and-error at the real M.R.I. scanner, we were rewarded with the first maps of brain activity. For our first tests, we measured Callie’s brain response to two hand signals in the scanner. In later experiments, not yet published, we determined which parts of her brain distinguished the scents of familiar and unfamiliar dogs and humans.”

Berns and his team focused on a key brain region called  the caudate nucleus, which sits between the brainstem and the cortex. In humans, the caudate, rich in dopamine receptors, plays a key role in the anticipation of things we enjoy, like food, love and money. Same with dogs — except, we’re pretty sure, for the money part.

“Specific parts of the caudate stand out for their consistent activation to many things that humans enjoy,” he says. “Caudate activation is so consistent that under the right circumstances, it can predict our preferences for food, music and even beauty … In dogs, we found that activity in the caudate increased in response to hand signals indicating food. The caudate also activated to the smells of familiar humans. And in preliminary tests, it activated to the return of an owner who had momentarily stepped out of view.”

Berns believes the scans will tell us more than behavioral observations do about what dogs are thinking.

“Do these findings prove that dogs love us? Not quite,” Berns wrote. “But many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate.”

That “functional homology,” as neuroscientists call it, may be an indication of canine emotions.

And given that, he asks, is it time to stop considering them property and start affording them some rights as individuals?

“If we went a step further and granted dogs rights of personhood, they would be afforded additional protection against exploitation,” he says. “Puppy mills, laboratory dogs and dog racing would be banned for violating the basic right of self-determination of a person.”

That day may not be directly around the corner, he notes, but with more being learned about how their brains work, and what thoughts run through them, it could eventually arrive.

“Perhaps someday,” he says, “we may see a case arguing for a dog’s rights based on brain-imaging findings.”

Bulletin: Not everybody loves your dog

Farhad Manjoo doesn’t want to pet your dog.

In fact, he’d prefer it if you’d keep your dog to yourself — out of the park he wants to read in, away from the cafe where he enjoys his Frappuccino, and definitely not in the gym in which he works out.

It was a case of the latter that triggered a well-written, semi-playful, anti-dog diatribe he wrote for Slate last week.

Manjoo argued that dogs are getting too many privileges. He pointed out that not everybody enjoys their presence, cited health hazards they could conceivably pose, and suggested all those people who take their dogs everywhere start leaving them at home.

Not sharing one’s dog? To me, that’s the equivalent of hiding a Van Gogh behind an ironing board in the basement. Or putting a newfound cure for cancer in a time capsule. Or shielding your eyes — just to be safe — from a blazing sunset.

Still, we’d defend Manjoo’s preference to live life without somebody else’s dog in his face. That’s his right. It’s his loss, but it’s also his right.

Manjoo is Slate‘s technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. So it doesn’t surprise me — he being caught up in all things digital — that he has failed to catch on to or be captivated by the wonder of dogs.

Microchipping aside, dogs and technology are best kept separate. They don’t always get along, maybe because they are the antithesis of each other. Technology may be the cure for everything, but dogs are the cure for technology. We’ll get back to this point, but first let’s look at what Manjoo said — after an unwanted encounter with a Doberman inside his gym.

“The dog came up to me, because in my experience that’s what dogs do when you don’t want them to come up to you. They get up real close, touching you, licking you, theatrically begging you to respond… I guess I was fairly sure he wouldn’t snap and bite me, but stranger things have happened — for instance, dogs snapping and biting people all the time. 

“Why was this dog here? And why was no one perturbed that this dog was here?

“…No one was asking because no one could ask. Sometime in the last decade, dogs achieved dominion over urban America. They are everywhere now, allowed in places that used to belong exclusively to humans, and sometimes only to human adults: the office, restaurants, museums, buses, trains, malls, supermarkets, barber shops, banks, post offices… Dogs are frequently allowed to wander off leash, to run toward you and around you, to run across the baseball field or basketball court, to get up in your grill. Even worse than the dogs are the owners, who seem never to consider whether there may be people in the gym/office/restaurant/museum who do not care to be in close proximity to their dogs. …”

Manjoo admits to not being a dog person, but at least — unlike most anti-dog types — he has a sense of humor about it.

“It’s not that I actively despise mutts; I just don’t have much time for them, in the same way I don’t have time for crossword puzzles or Maroon 5,” he writes.

“But here’s my problem: There’s now a cultural assumption that everyone must love dogs. Dog owners are rarely forced to reckon with the idea that there are people who aren’t enthralled by their furry friends, and that taking their dogs everywhere might not be completely pleasant for these folks.”

And seldom, he points out, does anyone whose dog accosts him say they’re sorry.

“… I can promise you she won’t apologize for the imposition. Nor will she ask you if you mind her dog doing what he’s doing. Nor will she pull on its leash, because there won’t be a leash, this being an office, where dogs are as welcome as Wi-Fi and free coffee.”

The same holds true, he notes, at coffee houses.

Here we should point out that the dog pictured atop this post is mine, and that, in the photo, Ace is enjoying an iced coffee product at Starbucks, offered to him by a customer whose behavior indicated she wanted him to visit her table.

When I take Ace to a Starbucks, or most anywhere else, it’s usually pretty apparent who wants to meet him and who doesn’t, and I restrain him accordingly. I don’t have to compile any data or crunch any numbers, I can just tell. It’s not brain surgery, or computer science.

Even though most people go to Starbucks for the free Wi-Fi, or the expensive coffee, I’d estimate about one of two customers wants to meet my dog. Ace — and this isn’t true of every dog — has a way of figuring that out himself, and generally will avoid those who show no interest in him, unless they are in the process of eating a muffin or pastry, in which case he’s willing to overlook the fact they may not be dog lovers.

What makes the numbers even more impressive is that 8 of every 10 customers at your typical Starbucks are under the spell of their computer device and not at all cognizant of what’s going on around them.

Ace is sometimes able to break that spell, at least he does for me.

As for me, I’d rather have access to Fido then Wi-Fi anyday. Fido will soothe me. Wi-Fi will likely, at some point, make me angry and frustrated. Fido will focus me. Wi-Fi will distract me. Wi-Fi will accost me with uninvited and intrusive messages, and send me alerts, and remind me of all the things I need to do today.  Fido will remind me all those things aren’t really that important and can wait until tomorrow. Wi-Fi will take me out of the moment; Fido will keep me in it. Wi-fi has no soul. Fido does, and his presence allows our souls — those of us who have them — to be refreshed. Dogs keep us from becoming an entirely manic society.

No one, if I have my laptop on, will want to come up and pet it, except maybe Farhad Manjoo, who — while not having the least bit of interest in my dog — is probably curious about my gigabytes and apps.

On this much I will agree with Manjoo: There are dog owners who seem unaware that not everybody will delight in their dog, oblivious to the fact that some might find their dog annoying and intrusive. Similarly, though, there are parents of children who don’t realize not everybody will delight in their antics. Similarly, too, there are grown-up people who fail to realize that they themselves are annoying and who we’d prefer not to have inflicted upon us.

Unfortunately, we can’t just ban them. Our choices are limited. We could work on being tolerant —  of all ages, sizes, shapes and species, despite their noise, intrusiveness and abrasiveness levels. Or we could go somewhere else. Or we could complain.

Sometimes, when visiting a Starbucks or other coffee place, I wonder if I should lodge an official complaint with management about Wi-Fi — objecting to its omnipresence, and how it seems to be turning people into keyboard-pushing zombies.

“No,” I’d say, “I’m not technically allergic to it, but I’m uncomfortable with it near. I’ve had some bad experiences with it. Sometimes it bites people when they least expect it, and I’m pretty sure it harbors germs.”

“But it’s wireless,” the manager might say.

“Exactly,” I’d say with a huff. “Put a leash on it.”

Activist’s guide dog, Ruger, dies in New York

Ruger, a yellow Lab who helped his blind owner fight for the rights of guide dogs in New York, died this week of natural causes.

For nearly a decade, Ruger was at the side of Kevin Coughlin as the two went up against taxi drivers, restaurants and other establishments that illegally denied them entry.

Coughlin, 48, undertook several high-profile cases against businesses in the city that to refused to open their doors to guide dogs, including two complaints against the Taxi and Limousine Commission for refusing Ruger a ride.

In 2002, Coughlin filed a discrimination complaint against a coffee shop  for throwing his dog out, leading to a $1,000 against the owner.

The “CBS Evening News” once followed Coughlin and Ruger with a hidden camera and recorded business owners and taxi drivers giving him a hard time because of his dog.

Ruger, who had retired as a guide dog in 2008 and was living in Warwick, N.Y., died Wednesday at the age of 13, the New York Times reported.

“After losing my vision, I truly felt like I wasn’t going to experience joy again,” Coughlin, who became blind in 1997 as a result of a genetic condition, said Thursday. “But Ruger was just so full of joy. It was this in-your-face, all encompassing feeling. That was the biggest gift. He allowed me once again to experience joy.”

Mr. Coughlin held a retirement party  for Ruger in 2008, but has not seen him since. He said it would have been too difficult emotionally.

Coughlin has been working with a new guide dog, a black Lab named Elias, but Coughlin’s e-mail handle remains “misterruger.”

Who dat dog, and is he now NFL property?

To understand this video clip you need the following background: New Orleans Saints fans are known to chant “Who Dat” in support of their football team.

Otherwise, the humans would just appear to be a bunch of fools, which of course they still kinda do even with that background knowledge.

Be that as it may, these particular fans have chosen to let a beagle lead them in the cheer — the ownership of which has become a matter of dispute.

The full chant is “Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints? Who Dat? Who Dat?”

The NFL is claiming it owns the phrase “Who Dat,” and has issued cease-and-desist orders against New Orleans vendors who sell Saints memorabilia with the wording.

New Orleans fans, the Wall Street Journal has reported, are outraged by the claim, contending the NFL never cared about the chant when the football team was losing, or after it was ousted from its home stadium in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, finishing the season 3-13.

“The Saints actually win something and go to the Super Bowl, and the NFL sees a way they can make a penny,” complained Dan Frazier, general manager of local sports-talk radio station 690 WIST.

“Who dat,” locals say, was part of the local lingo well before it became the rallying cry at Saints games.

The Journal article says St. Augustine High School, an all-boys Catholic school in the city, started the chant in 1972 at its own football games. “Who dat talking about beating them Knights? Nobody! Nobody!”

The saying went on to become the rallying cry for the Saints, and, in the 1980s, New Orleans singer Aaron Neville made a video, singing “who dat” alongside team members.

But now, according to the NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, “If ‘who dat’ is used in a manner to refer to Saints football, then the Saints own the rights.”

Under that reasoning, I guess the Philadelphia Eagles, and therefore the NFL, own the rights to, and any profits from, dogfighting, as well.

Either way, they’re still a bunch of bullies.