Wednesday, December 17, 2008

California's Proposition 8: The Aftermath

Here's an e-mail I sent today (December 17, 2008) to Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez:

Dear Steve,

I am the activist formerly known as Andrew Exler who overturned Disneyland's ban on same-sex dancing in the 1980s. I legally changed my name to Crusader more than a decade ago since the media often refers to me as a "civil rights crusader."

Your recent columns regarding Prop 8 have been excellent and have greatly encouraged dialogue between both sides of this controversial issue.

Yes, lesbigays should have the right to legally marry (forget about civil unions which are insulting and are not the same as real marriage, the same between men and women). Personally, I am totally anti-marriage (gay or straight), but I support it for those who want it.

Yes, people are free to donate to the political cause or candidate of their choice, and also have the right to speak out for or against those political causes and candidates.

Yes, consumers have a right to not do business with individuals or businesses for any reason whatsoever; it's called the free enterprise system.

No, people who donate to candidates or political causes do not have a right to hide their true occupations on the donation paperwork. After spending about ten hours of volunteer research for one No on 8 organization, I discovered numerous contributors to Yes on 8 (in the $25,000 range) were not really "housewives" or "retired," but actually owned small or large businesses and in fact had a real occupation.

State law requires donors to list their true occupation/business, yet I am convinced that there is definitely a pattern of Yes on 8 donors intentionally keeping that information secret, which violates the law, is dishonest and unethical. What and who are these folks hiding from?

The bottom line is that I'm more concerned about large contributors to Yes on 8 that hide behind occupations of "housewife" or "retired" than a small $100 contribution from a self-admitted Mormon restaurant worker.

Just the same, people have a right to protest and boycott El Coyote (or any other business) if that is what they want to do. A small amount of their tips and money spent at the restaurant did end up in the Yes on 8 side, so the protesters make a valid point. I just feel energies are better spent to expose and boycott the huge corporate donors to Yes on 8, which is a hateful and discriminatory law.

In the same light, if people are upset that Apple (and other corporations and individuals) donated large amounts to No on 8, then those people don't have to do business with Apple. They can also refuse to purchase or rent movies with Brad Pitt or directed by Steven Spielberg (both who are said to have donated $100,000 each to No on 8).

Quite frankly, I'm really sick of the religious zealots who say that they love lesbigays, they aren't bigots, they aren't homophobic, etc. It is an oxymoron to love people and then take steps to violate the basic rights of sexual minorities (or anyone else).

Palm Springs, CA
(760) 799-xxxx (direct line) [redacted for blog post]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Calilesbigays Can Now Marry

(May 15, 2008) In a surprise ruling, the California Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriages in California today. In a nutshell, the gist of the 172-page decision is found on page 120:

"Plaintiffs are entitled to the issuance of a writ of mandate directing the appropriate state officials to take all actions necessary to effectuate our ruling in this case so as to ensure that county clerks and other local officials throughout the state, in performing their duty to enforce the marriage statutes in their jurisdictions, apply those provisions in a manner consistent with the decision of this court. Further, as the prevailing parties, plaintiffs are entitled to their costs."The majority decision was written by Chief Justice Ronald George with Justices Joyce Kennard, Kathryn Werdegar, and Carlos Moreno concurring.

"Although I agree with the majority's conclusion, I have to disagree with its path," Santa Ana civil rights attorney Ron Talmo told Crusader's Corner.

"I believe that a prohibition on same sex marriages is best analyzed as gender discrimination. The Court's distinction of the race cases made no sense. Equally burdening two groups on the basis of their gender is still gender discrimination. I fear the ramifications of that analysis in other civil rights areas. On the plus side, the Court's error on that point required them to address the sexual orientation classification issue. Here the majority concluded that sexual orientation discrimination is subject to strict scrutiny review. This is probably the more important conclusion than the broad view of marriage as a fundamental right conclusion."

Talmo is the attorney who successfully argued before the California Supremes that ladies' day discounts violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Koire v. Metro Car Wash, 1985). He also was victorious in convincing a conservative Orange County jury that Disneyland violated the rights of two young gay men who were ejected from The Gayest Place on Earth after disco dancing together at the Tomorrowland Terrace in 1980.

Gay Marriage Ban May Return in November

According to their website, a group calling itself Protect Marriage is waiting for the California Secretary of State to qualify Proposition 22 for the November 2008 Primary Election. That constitutional amendment seeks to legally define marriage in California as between a man and a woman.

"The Constitutional Amendment cannot pass," West Hollywood city council member
John Duran told Crusader's Corner. "It is worth each of us giving everything we have to hold the court decision."
Duran, a longtime civil rights lawyer said that if the amendment passes, the only recourse is in federal court, which will be disastrous. "The US Supremes will not give us a favorable decision, so the federal courts will not protect us," he said.

Crusader's Corner recommends that people supportive of marital equality for everyone donate money to Human Rights Campaign California
Marriage PAC.
Personally, I feel that marriage is highly overrated, but if lesbigays want to have the same rights, responsibilities, and heartache that their straight counterparts currently enjoy, so be it.

Today's gay marriage ruling was surprising to me because the California Supremes (with Chief Ronald George at the helm) ruled in favour of Boy Scouts of America's oppressive policies in two 1998 court rulings: one involving gay Eagle Scout Timothy Curran; the other dealing with two twin Boy Scout brothers (Michael and William Randall) who happen to be atheists.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sony Makes Good on eBook Reader Falsely Marketed to Sight-Impaired Readers

In November 2007, after much research for eBook readers, I finally settled on the new Sony PRS-505 Reader. What closed the sale for me was information I read on the Sony Style web site. Under the heading "Impressive, paper-like display," Sony made the following claim: "The text can also be magnified for sight-impaired readers."

As a loyal Sony customer (speakers, headphones, you name it), I relied on their marketing when I made my purchase. I even had the eBook reader engraved for free by Sony with "Crusader Rocks!" and my telephone number, because I figured the Reader would be a keeper.

Overall, I was content with my purchase. The device is light, thin, classy looking, easy to operate, and provides a nice feature of being able to create folders for organizing hundreds of books to easily locate when needed.

Within a few days of purchase, I downloaded my free 100 classic books and had no problem reading text for most of them, so long as I used the Large Font selection in Landscape Mode. Anything short of that was too small for me to comfortably read.

As weeks went by, I noticed there was no consistency with the font and line spacing with the books Sony sold in their proprietary online store. Several eBooks (from various publishers) had much smaller fonts and different line spacing than previous books I read on my Sony device with ease. Upon further investigation, I even found several classic books that Sony formatted themselves to be in smaller fonts than the ones I had previously read.

To confirm that the Sony PRS-505 Reader is actually capable of handling better formatting of eBooks, I went to (a must for anyone into eBooks), and downloaded some of the free public domain books their members upload to the site on a regular basis. Those books were formatted in such a way that made use of Sony's entire screen, thus having fonts in bold and much easier to read than ANYTHING available from Sony's bookstore. I had similar results (but not as good as MobileRead) with with free books from and paid books from

This "test" of sorts proved that it is simple to have the books properly formatted for the sight-impaired reader, but Sony just didn't make an effort to do that prior to marketing their device for those who want or need better formatting of their eBooks.

After shelling out $300 (plus tax) for the device, $30 (plus tax) for an adapter - - which Sony does NOT include with the device - - plus about $120 for eBooks from Sony, I expected their product to work as advertised.

I e-mailed Sony Customer Service a very strongly worded demand that they remedy the situation with their fonts or refund all my monies for purchased materials that are not in the proper format, or permit me to return my Reader to them for a full refund. I advised them that if they did not resolve the matter, I would be filing a complaint with the California Attorney General (since that is where I live and the product shipped from a California location) for false advertising.

Two weeks later, on January 11, a Sony rep contacted me and provided me with RMA numbers for both the Sony Reader device and AC Adapter. They also provided a prepaid FedEx Ground label to return the products to them for a full refund. Between January 11 and 22, Sony provided a full refund for the Reader, adapter, and eBooks purchased.

After I sent my e-mail complaint to Sony, I stumbled upon a December 2007 Consumer Reports review of the PRS-505. The review clearly stated, "There's no size that corresponds to large-print books, so the Reader isn't a good choice for anyone who's visually impaired."

Sony should immediately stop marketing their device for the sight-impaired, but that is a decision for them to make. I will be more than happy to volunteer my assistance for other sight-impaired Reader customers who are not happy with the device and want a refund for either the books and/or device(s) from Sony.

On a related note, consumers should note that Sony customer service via e-mail for the Reader is VERY slow. Relating to their eBookstore, there are often numerous bugs, including incorrect links for purchases, incorrect book titles, nonfunctioning favourite author notification, and very outdated RSS feeds, to name but a few.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Convicts (Even Sex Offenders) Are Entitled to Basic Civil Rights Upon Release

A recent murder of a registered sex offender in California demonstrates that some people just don't get it. Like it or not, once a person is released from jail, they basically are entitled to (or should be) to the same rights as everyone else.

By his own admission, 29-year-old construction worker Ivan Garcia Oliver killed 67-year-old convicted rapist Michael A. Dodele in Lakeport, California, just 35 days after Dodele's release from prison.

A December 10, 2007, article in the Los Angeles Times ("Megan's Law listing may have lead to slaying"), discusses the fact that the killing may have stemmed from a listing in a California Internet database that lists information about registered sex offenders.

I believe the basic concept of Megan's Law is that people be notified and have access to information about registered sex offenders so they can prevent themselves (or children) from being victimized by the offender. Unfortunately, the law has clearly been responsible for the violation of the civil rights of thousands of released offenders.

Not only has the law lead to witch hunts of registered sex offenders throughout the nation, but the information supplied on California's database is very vague and confusing. At quick glance, nearly everyone on the database appears to be a child molester because of the very brief description of the offender's crime(s), which is based on how the penal code is vaguely worded.

I even thought an acquaintance of mine in Palm Springs is a child molester because of how the penal code violation is worded next to his name on the State of California Meagan's Law webiste. Even after reading the penal code in detail, I'm still not sure what's what, and I'm a seasoned paralegal. If I can't figure it out, How on earth do we expect the "average Joe" to interpret the crime descriptions on these public databases?

The killer made the same mistake I did about my acquaintance, and thought Dodele was a child molester. According to the Los Angeles Times article about the killing in Lakeport, Dodele was convicted of violating adults, not children. Unwanted acts against adults and children are both bad, however Michael A. Dodele may still be alive today if it weren't for the sloppiness of California's database. His killer made it clear he went after Dodele because he thought he was a child molester.

I realize that I am in the minority, but whether someone molested, raped, sodomized, killed, stole, whatever; once they are released, they should be treated humanely so long as they are abiding by the rules.

A convict should be permitted to have a place to live, shop, eat, work, etc. without threat of eviction or disruptions from protesters who feel the convict should receive more punishment after their release.

On the flip side, it goes without saying that a child molester should not be permitted to work in a school (or live near one); an embezzler shouldn't be permitted to work in a bank; terrorists shouldn't be permitted to work in airports or for public transit entities.

More food for thought on this very topic is provided by veteran journalist Patt Morrison in her excellent December 13, 2007, commentary published in the Los Angeles Times ("Megan's law of unintended consequences").

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 is the Real Deal!

I heard about this new venture at the same time that I was contemplating selling two of my high-end smartphones (Nokia 9300 and Cingular 8125)that I recently replaced with other models.

I have had lots of success in the past with eBay for these types of items, and even had a draft ad written for one of the telephones. I decided to check out BuyMyTronics because it appeared to be a good "Plan B" for me to get a fair price for my preowned devices with less effort on my part.

Even though the BuyMyTronics website wasn't officially set up to handle high-end cell devices when I was ready to sell my Nokia 9300, owner Brett promptly responded to my first e-mail and that same evening arrived at a price quote for my phone. I was then able to complete the quick steps on his web site to input my information, and then sent off my phone to him the very next day from California.

He received my phone a few days later in Colorado and I was paid that same day via PayPal. It doesn't get any easier than that.

Now that we had established a good working relationship, I asked him for a price quote on my Cingular 8125, and that transaction went as smoothly as the first.

Yes, if one wants to take the time and effort to put up their small electronic devices for auction or sale on eBay, they will probably get more money for their item that way. However, for those who prefer to sell their devices at a fair price and get paid right away, with little effort, is the answer.

Tronics the company is currently buying include iPods, iPhones, game consoles, cell phones, PDAs, laptops, digital cameras, and camcorders.