Friday, July 30, 2004

A VERY interesting update on the copyright case with Jib Jab I blogged on earlier, from EFF Deep Links via the Volokh Conspiracy:

"Turns out Woody Guthrie lifted the melody of "This Land is Your Land" essentially note-for-note from "When the World's on Fire," a song recorded by country/bluegrass legends, The Carter Family, ten years before Guthrie wrote his classic song. Here's a short snippet (380k mp3) of the song (the song can be found on the box set, The Carter Family: 1927-34). You don't need to be a musicologist to hear what we're talking about."

The article points out the letter from the "litigation counsel for Ludlow Music Inc." emphasizes how Jib Jab lifted "the entire melody, harmony, rhythm and structure of the [sic] Mr. Guthrie's song."
The Press Citizen printed this guest opinion in favor of the fake rainforest in Coralville.
"Then, in late January, a local newspaper headline changed my future and my life in an instant. The article told of a project that would have the power to inspire the world.

There was a feeling of certainty, purpose, excitement and several nights of very little sleep as I thought endlessly about how the Iowa Environmental/Education Project in Coralville would change Iowa and the planet. Visions of a place where visitors could explore and learn about the splendor of the Earth's natural beauty and work side by side with real scientists doing real research made my heart flutter with elation."

The melodrama is too thick. . . . An eager young student, poised on the brink of leaving the safety of the cornfields for the mean streets of some dank urban jungle. She is stopped in her tracks by a single newspaper headline of awesome power. A power so amazing, it instantly renders her an insomniac with a serious heart condition. She pauses to ponder the meaning of it all. In a flash of inspiration, her eyes are opened to the earth-transforming potential of a large, expensive building tastefully decorated with a "artificial forestry meets science lab" motif. She realizes her destiny lies not in the dark alleys of the cold, cruel city, but in the welcoming bosom of her homeland. She will become a true partner with the land that birthed her, a fellow-sojourner in the critical search for truly huge simulated ecosystems. Let the building begin!!!!

. . .

I know it's an opinion article, but seriously.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Finally got a cast photo of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife posted on the lineup. Upcoming events, if anyone's in the mood for live theater:

City Circle is performing Psycho Beach Party, which was written by the same guy who did the Tale of the Allergist's Wife. It's got graphic language and some sexual content, so it's not one for the kids. But if the writing is as good as Allergist, it should be incredibly funny. I know a few cast members, and they always turn out stellar performances. It's running August 6, 7, 8, 12, 13 and 14. All performances at 8:00 pm, except Sunday, August 8 at 2:30 pm. Due to my rehearsal and other schedules, the only one I'll be able to catch is the 7th, but I am definitely planning on going.

Dreamwell is doing Glengarry Glen Ross on September 10, 11, 17, & 18. The cast is cool, I worked with many of the guys in Rosenstrasse. It's a great show, but be prepared to hear the f-bomb about 150 times, among other things.

City Circle is doing Metamorphoses, an adaptation of Ovid's myths acted entirely in the Coralville pool. That's my show, do be prepared to be bored stiff hearing about this in the future - it's going to be sooo cool though! We run on September 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, & 19, all at 8:00 pm.

Iowa City Community Theatre will be rocking with Little Shop of Horrors September 24, 25 & 26, and October 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10. All Friday and Saturday shows are at 8:00 and the Sunday matinees are at 2:30. Jeff Shields (who directed Father of the Bride) says that the auditions for this puppy sounded almost broadway quality, he's really proud of the cast he's put together.
****Another long legal post****

To round out the legal news, sex toys are officially banned in Alabama, with punishment of up to a year in prison if you're caught selling one. There's no punishment for using one, however. . . . Most of the original links are from How Appealing.

In Lawrence v. State, the United States Supreme Court addressed a Texas anti-sodomy law. After a lengthy discussion of the history of such laws and the prior Bowers v. Hardwick Supreme Court case calling them constitutional, overruled Bowers. They came to this conclusion:

"The case does involve two adults who, with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle. The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government. “It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.”
Casey, supra, at 847.

The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual. Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific. They did not presume to have this insight. They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations
can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom."

According to this 11th Circuit opinion, this doesn't change the analysis in the case at hand:

"We concluded that, although Lawrence clearly established the unconstitutionality of criminal prohibitions on consensual adult sodomy, “it is a strained and ultimately incorrect reading of Lawrence to interpret it to announce a new fundamental right”—whether to homosexual sodomy specifically or, more broadly, to all forms of sexual intimacy. Id. at 817. We noted in particular that the Lawrence opinion did not employ fundamental-rights analysis and that it ultimately applied rational basis review, rather than strict scrutiny, to the challenged statute."

Technically, Lawrence was decided on substantive due process grounds, as shown in the above quote. It answered two of the three issues on appeal in Lawrence:

“2. Whether Petitioners’ criminal convictions for adult
consensual sexual intimacy in the home violate their
vital interests in liberty and privacy protected by the
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
“3. Whether Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U. S. 186
(1986), should be overruled?”

The 14th Amendment Due Process clause reads as follows:

Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.
Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The law that the parties were charged with violating in Lawrence:

"The complaints described their crime as “deviate sexual
intercourse, namely anal sex, with a member of the same
sex (man).” App. to Pet. for Cert. 127a, 139a. The applicable
state law is Tex. Penal Code Ann. §21.06(a) (2003).
It provides: “A person commits an offense if he engages in
deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the
same sex.” The statute defines “[d]eviate sexual intercourse”
as follows:
“(A) any contact between any part of the genitals of
one person and the mouth or anus of another person;
“(B) the penetration of the genitals or the anus of another
person with an object.” §21.01(1)."

The short version of a very involved subject: "Substantive due process" analysis usually covers cases not involving suspect classifications, or where the primary issue is the right to engage in the prohibited conduct. An "equal protection" analysis is triggered when the conduct may or may not involve a fundamental right, but the statute appears to make impermissible classifications between people (race, gender, etc.). The Supreme Court framed the Lawrence decision in substantive due process terms:

"We conclude the case should be resolved by determining whether the petitioners were free as adults to engage in the private conduct in the exercise of their liberty under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution."

The simple analysis of substantive due process claims - from my old Con Law 2 notes which are still on my laptop (what a geek I am): "If the right was fundamental, it triggers higher scrutiny. If not, rational basis." Hence, the 11th Circuit decision in this case. Citing an earlier case in which it analyzed Lawrence, the Court states in a footnote:

"We are particularly hesitant to infer a new fundamental liberty interest from an opinion whose language and reasoning are inconsistent with standard fundamental-rights analysis. The Court has noted that it must “exercise the utmost care whenever [it is] asked to break new ground” in the field of fundamental rights, which is precisely what the Lawrence petitioners and their amici curiae had asked the Court to do. That the Court declined the invitation is apparent from the absence of the "two primary features" of fundamental rights analysis in its opinion. First, the Lawrence opinion contains virtually no inquiry into the question of whether the petitioners’ asserted right is one of 'those fundamental rights and liberties which are, objectively, deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition and implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.' Second, the opinion notably never provides the ''careful description of the asserted fundamental liberty interest" that is to accompany fundamental-rights analysis. Rather, the constitutional liberty interests on which the Court relied were invoked, not with 'careful description,' but with sweeping generality. Most significant, however, is the fact that the Lawrence Court never applied strict
scrutiny, the proper standard when fundamental rights are implicated, but instead invalidated the Texas statute on rational-basis grounds, holding that it 'furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.'"

The 11th Circuit then proceeds to analyze the concepts of a "careful description of the asserted fundamental liberty interest" and "history and tradition implicit in the concept of ordered liberty".

"the scope of the liberty interest at stake here must be defined in reference to the scope of the Alabama statute. We begin by observing that the broad rights to “privacy” and “sexual privacy” invoked by the ACLU are not at issue. The statute invades the privacy of Alabama residents in their bedrooms no more than does any statute restricting the availability of commercial products for use in private quarters as sexual enhancements. . . At a minimum, therefore, the putative right at issue is the right to sell and purchase sexual devices. . . not simply in terms of whether the Constitution protects a right to sell and buy sexual devices, but whether it protects a right to use such devices."

A favorite tactic in interpreting fundamental rights cases - where you want to find no right, interpret the definition of the "right" very narrowly. It is supported by the facts, but note that Roe v. Wade was defined as a right to privacy, not the right to obtain a first-trimester abortion.

Regarding the "history and tradition implicit in the concept of ordered liberty":

"We find that the district court, in reaching this conclusion, erred on four levels. The first error relates back to the district court’s over-broad framing of the asserted right in question. Having framed the relevant right as a generalized “right
to sexual privacy,” the district court’s history and tradition analysis consisted largely of an irrelevant exploration of the history of sex in America. Second, we find that this analysis placed too much weight on contemporary practice and attitudes with respect to sexual conduct and sexual devices. Third, rather than look for a history and tradition of protection of the asserted right, the district court asked whether there was a history and tradition of state non-interference with the right. Finally, we find that the district court’s uncritical reliance on certain expert
declarations in interpreting the historical record was flawed and that its reliance on certain putative “concessions” was unfounded."

They conclude:

"Hunting expeditions that seek trophy game in the fundamental-rights forest must heed the maxim “look before you shoot.” Such excursions, if embarked upon recklessly, endanger the very ecosystem in which such liberties thrive—our republican democracy. Once elevated to constitutional status, a right is effectively removed from the hands of the people and placed into the guardianship of unelected judges. See Glucksberg, 521 U.S. at 720, 117 S. Ct. at 2267-68. We are particularly mindful of this fact in the delicate area of morals legislation. One of the virtues of the democratic process is that, unlike the judicial process, it need not
take matters to their logical conclusion. If the people of Alabama in time decide that a prohibition on sex toys is misguided, or ineffective, or just plain silly, they can repeal the law and be finished with the matter. On the other hand, if we today craft a new fundamental right by which to invalidate the law, we would be bound to give that right full force and effect in all future cases—including, for example, those involving adult incest, prostitution, obscenity, and the like."

Cats and dogs living together, utter chaos.

An interesting side point: On an earlier appeal the 11th Circuit ruled that the law passed the rational basis test:

"We conclude the district court erred in determining the statute lacks a rational basis. The State's interest in public morality is a legitimate interest rationally served by the statute. The crafting and safeguarding of public morality has long been an established part of the States' plenary police power to legislate and indisputably is a legitimate government interest under rational basis scrutiny."

That was 1999, pre-Lawrence. The Court then framed the issues in this appeal as whether the District Court overstepped its bounds in deciding there was a fundamental right to purchase and use sex toys. It indicated Lawrence didn't support such a right because it didn't the make sexual contact at issue a fundamental right, but instead struck the Texas sodomy law down on rational basis grounds - that it impermissibly interfered with conduct in the bedroom without a rational basis to do so. But even granting that, from what I can see nowhere does the 11th Circuit majority opinion address whether the prohibition on sex toys is an impermissible interference in the bedroom without a rational basis to do so in light of Lawrence - whether the Alabama law should be struck as violating the substantive due process clause under what the opinion concedes Lawrence did say, as opposed to what it claims Lawrence didn't say?

Welcome to everyone wandering over from How Appealing, and a thank you to Howard Bashman for linking to me. Feel free to look around, but don't expect it to be too serious.
The copyright owners to the Guthrie song "This Land is Your Land" have threatened suit against JibJab for the hilarious Kerry/GWB spoof they put out, which I linked to in this post. Unfortunately, as a recent article in Reason points out, there may be some grounds for the suit. The short version: the "parody" fair use exception for copyrights only works if the spin-off parodies the original work, not someone or something else. This could be technically be considered a "satire" instead, and may not have the same protections according to this 9th Circuit opinion. Note: the 9th Circuit is basically synonymous with California, which would have jurisdiction over a significant portion of artistic works.

In the Dr. Seuss decision, the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that The Cat NOT in the Hat!, a book by "Dr. Juice" that told the story of the O.J. Simpson trial, violated the Seuss estate's copyright in "The Cat in the Hat," by drawing the parody/satire distinction. Because the infringing book wasn't parodying Seuss' original work, they determined it infringed on the copyright.

It's not entirely a lost cause, as there is some argument that the song not only parodies the elections, but also Guthrie's message. Ernest Miller of Corante blogs this:

". . . Where Guthrie's song is one of unity, JibJab's version both mocks and ultimately supports that ideal. In a year in which the red/blue divide is frequently debated, Guthrie's call for unity would seem to be ripe for this sort of parody. Guthrie was a supporter of communism, but his America has become consumerist (which JibJab notes perfectly). Guthrie sang songs to raise political consciousness, JibJab mocks political consciousness."

Andrew Raff of IPTAblog also favors this view in his excellent piece "This Use is Fair Use":

"Not only does this animation comment on the public perceptions of the two candidates, but it shows how naive and marginalized Guthrie's vision of a united country is compared with modern political discourse. The animation parodies the original song by demonstrating what would result if the songwriter replaced Guthrie's idealism and hope with post-modern cynicism and rabid partisanship. The listener will think about Guthrie's unifying message and wonder if there is any place for such hope in politics today."

I only hope a court will see it that way, as I thoroughly agree with them. Besides the overall cynical tone of the piece, it includes a shot of a Native American on the plains singing "this land was my land" as Walmarts, shopping malls, and SUV's spring up in the background to the choral response "but now it's our land." That isn't a parody of Bush or Kerry, but our consumerism and greed as a whole. It points out precisely the way that many people believe we're destroying 'our land' in the name of profits. This point might prove a difficult one to argue on the part of a company seeking to capitalize on this free video clip?

As the Reason article points out, this shows the nasty state of copyright law today. It's supposed to be a balance between encouraging creative expression, and ensuring artists get paid the full worth of their efforts. But the rights artistic works no longer generally owned by individuals, like say Walt Disney. Instead, they are owned by multi-gagillion dollar businesses that would feel a solid financial hit if Mickey were to go public domain, as he was scheduled to do in 2003. These businesses have a huge financial incentive to do just what the Disney Corporation did, get an entertainment-type politician (in that case, Sony Bono) to sponsor a bill extending the copyright laws another 20 years. Now, instead of the "Life+50" rule it's "Life+70." And anyone who thinks they won't do the same thing when the next deadline rolls around please contact me to buy a bridge in Brooklyn.

There was a rather bad movie out a year or so ago called "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," involving familiar characters from the past - the invisible man, Captain Nemo, Dorian Gray, Allan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll, etc. - as adventure heroes. I pointed out to a friend at the time that the likely reason the movie could be made at all is that the copyright on these 1800's characters is expired, and they're in the public domain. Otherwise: no more vampire movies, no Frankenstein characters, no Sherlock Holmes spin-offs, it would simply be too expensive for the original artist to write such a story without the backing of another large corporation to buy the rights to the characters. Many of these derivative works are not exactly quality material, but some are quite good. Laurie King's excellent Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series comes to mind, for one. (Yes, I'm a mystery buff).

This should be an interesting case to follow, if no one steps up and settles it before it goes to court.
They also The Java House officially has the best iced latte in town. I can vouch that they're veeerrry good: had the Decedant Mocha Ghirandelli Iced Latte last night. Nothing like getting hyped up on caffiene and chocolate simultaneously.
According to the Press-Citizen, it's random roadblock time again in Iowa City. I'm always amazed at the people they catch out after they put the notice in the paper, but then, your general criminal population isn't that bright anyway. The article even ends with this:

"According to the release, "Numerous citations and warnings were issued for various violations. Several outstanding warrants were served, and a number of drunk drivers were detected." If motorists are in compliance with the law, police say each will be detained for five minutes during the inspection. For more information, contact Iowa City Police Sgt. Mike Lord at 356-5286."

I wonder if they ever get drug dealers trying to call to ask where the block will be so they can avoid them?

Be sure to congratulate the guys at Tusk and Talon on their one-year blogging anniversary!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The latest Court of Appeals opinions are up. I cruised the summaries to see if there was anything blog-worthy. Nothing ground-breaking, legal-wise. Some refinement of what it means to be in possession of drugs, another case on the issue of intent to permanently deprive that's nowhere near as silly as the one I blogged on earlier.

Then I see the State v. Jason Edward Neal summary, and I just get angry. Angry that this kind of thing can happen to a three year old child, and that the person who did it has the nerve to make excuses for it.

Three-year-old David Szczygielski’s mother left him in Neal’s care while she was at work. Neal became angry at David because David wet his pants and punished David by spanking him with a wooden paddle. At some point thereafter, he discovered David had also soiled his pants, and responded by pushing him into a bathroom wall. According to the Defendant (Note this is his version, not the State's):

Q. All right, So you’re done spanking and you went upstairs with the paddle; is that right? A. Yes, I did.
Q. And you put it away? A. Yes.
Q. And then what did you do? A. And then I came back downstairs to go back into –
Q. And at that point what do you see when you come back downstairs? A. The bathroom door is open. David is standing there and he’s not changing or anything like that. He’s just – he’s standing there.
. . . .
Q. Did he respond to you at all? A. He didn’t respond. He wasn’t looking up or anything at me, and I kept – I said, “David,” and then I guess as a reaction because I wasn’t getting his attention like I wanted it, I pushed. I pushed David.
Q. With both hands? A. With both hands.
Q. Where did you push him on his body? A. Like in the chest area. It wasn’t – when I pushed him, it wasn’t meant to be a push like as hard as it was or like that. It was just – you know, looking back on it, I wish I would have grabbed him by the shoulders, you know, like some people do, but I just – it was a reaction. I pushed, and he went back into the wall. And after he went back into the wall –
Q. Well, let me ask you this: When you pushed him, was it your intent to push him into the wall? A. No. My intent wasn’t for him to hit the wall. It’s what happened.
Q. What part of his body hit the wall? A. Well, I didn’t – I mean, I wasn’t back there to see, but I know his back hit the wall and then the indentation, the back of his head hit the wall.

(NOTE: An indentation in the wall?! The amount of force that implies is insane.)

"Neal then cleaned David up, dressed him, and placed him in bed. After David began vomiting and was having difficulty breathing, Neal summoned a neighbor for help. At the hospital, David’s treating physician, Dr. Dawson, “specifically asked [Neal] if [David] had had any kind of trauma of any kind . . . including spanking and falling in [his questioning].” Neal denied any trauma and said he was baking a cake when he found David lying on his bed. After offering several versions, Neal told police he pushed David into the bathroom wall.

Dr. Dawson would later testify that David was unconscious upon arrival and exhibited retinal hemorrhaging, a classic symptom of a battered child. Physicians also noted two distinct impact injuries to the back of David’s head. David also had significant bruising that extended from his lower back to the bottom of his back and covered both sides of his buttocks. Dr. Gerdes, a pediatric critical care specialist, opined that it was unlikely David would have been able to walk after sustaining such injuries. The physicians’ consensus opinion was that David’s injuries were contemporaneously inflicted.

A subsequent autopsy confirmed that David died from “blunt force trauma to the head.” The coroner determined David’s fatal injuries were caused by at least two separate impacts to the back of his head. The coroner also noted a deep laceration to the back of David’s ear, a large bruise above his right eye, defensive wounds on the back of his right hand, bruises around his neck, and considerable bruising on his buttocks that were so extensive “they actually occurred throughout the muscles of the buttock.”

The defendant argued, among other things such as ineffective assistance of counsel, that there was not enough evidence that he had malice aforethought. The Court thought otherwise:

"Malice may be inferred from the commission of a felony which results in death. Schrier v. State, 347 N.W.2d 657, 666 (Iowa 1984). The evidence shows that David died as a result of two traumatic blows to his head. Investigators located two indentations on the wall in the bathroom that would have been caused by the head of someone of David’s height hitting the wall with great force, and the coroner concluded that David died from two distinct impacts to the back of his head. The nature and extent of David’s injuries, as well as the force required to inflict them, are more than sufficient to establish the requisite malice aforethought for Neal’s murder conviction. See State v. Rhode, 503 N.W.2d 27, 39 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993) (inferring malice from defendant’s intentional slamming of child’s head against a hard flat surface causing severe head injuries); see also State v. Poyner, 306 N.W.2d 716, 718 (Iowa 1981) (finding multiple wounds supply strong evidence of malice and intent to kill). Moreover, the egregious nature of David’s other injuries further exemplifies Neal had the malice aforethought when he killed David. David’s injuries to his buttocks were so severe the physicians believed he would have likely been unable to walk; he had bruising marks around his neck, a lacerated ear, and defensive wounds on his right hand. The severity and manner of David’s injuries are clearly enough to provide substantial evidence of malice."

As I said, the Court got it right. But it really puts the rest of life in perspective somehow. I think I'll go over and play a little with my nephews (age 2 and 4) tonight.


The Register picks up this story.
John Kerry demonstrates that not every photo opportunity should be used:

Oompa Loompa doompadee doo

I've got another puzzle for you

Oompa Loompa doompadah dee

If you are wise you'll listen to me

Seen on Instapundit.

Of course, make one mistake and the internet takes no prisoners:

From the Blogs of War.


And from State 29 - well, this is just silly.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Things I've noticed on other blogs today:

Keep on smiling . . . and the world will kick you in the teeth.

The Patron Saint of Mediocrity refutes popular platitudes - IMHO the Helen Keller bit is hilarious.

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

The Yin Blog analyzes media bias. My own note: isn't it funny how most people, particularly extremists of the right and left sides, think the media is slanted against them? Does that make us, as a nation, certifiably paranoid?

As if life isn't complicated enough. . .

The Volokh Conspiracy discusses whether forwarding an email could be considered a copyright violation.

Say that again?

They also discuss whether parties can waive an argument that the opposition waived their argument.


Michelle Malkin called Wonkette Ana Marie Cox a skankette on national television. Okay, it was C-Span. But still. Saw it on Instapundit.

Being an avid reader of any and all things, including stupid kid's books, today's opinion piece in the Press-Citizen slamming the Harry Potter books as anti-God really got me annoyed. I've no patience with those who condemn without examination, and the writer has obviously no familiarity with the works beyond reading attacks against the series written by others. And while I have no problem with anyone who wants to burn their own books for any reason whatsoever, be sure you know the facts before you tell me to burn mine.

****NOTE: This is really a viceral response to a subject that particularly annoys me. Forgive the diatribe and feel free to skip this post or head over to any of the blogs at the left for more about the Iraq war, the fake rainforest, or other more important issues.****

"Church and the teaching institution of Sunday school should not include anything that does not accent the Gospel message of Jesus Christ ("Harry potter goes to Sunday school," July 16)."

This I can grant, though I'd broaden the definition to include "and how that message is applied to areas of life outside the church." Note the distinction between sunday school, not public school.

"The Word of God shows the church as a palace of refuge, prayer, deliverance and teaching."

Not always. Note the scene prior to Easter when Christ is shown overthrowing the tables in the synogogue because of his anger at the crooked moneychangers. But as a general rule, I'll grant the principle.

"Sunday school is designed to be a place where the Word of God is taught rightly divided. Giving individuals the opportunity to learn what is needed that they might grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Nothing should defile the house of God."

Again, though redundant, I'll grant the point.

"Through the Word of God, Christians are given repeated warnings about participating in cult activity. Let me say that there is nothing - no ideas and certainly no themes - that Harry Potter and the Bible is in sync with."

Really? The first book alone is ripe with examples of the same principles found in the Bible. How about the basic premise of redemptive love, which is demonstrated in the books by Harry's parents sacrificing their lives for him? How about the prohibition against covetousness which is portrayed in the ending of the first novel through Voldemort's downfall stemming from his coveting the Sorceror's Stone, and the characterization of the Mirror of Erised - a trap showing that the illusion of providing the viewer's most precious desire? Not to mention the portrayals of fair play winning over cheating in Quidditch games, the warnings against judging on appearances alone when the novel reveals that Snipe was not a traitor after all? There are many more examples, too numerous to list here, in the first book alone. And I haven't even touched the others. The critique here ignores all this.

"Harry Potter is an 11-year-old boy who is a wizard (and the Bible warns against such characters). He uses his magical powers given through life's experiences in his quest to "do the right thing." Although the books are filled with mystery, intrigue and heroism, the bottom line is deception."

Yes, the Bible warns against wizards. But this is a fairy tale. Such use is permissible in fairy tales and fantasy, when clearly deliniated from everyday life. Otherwise, explain to me how C.S. Lewis, arguably one of the greatest Christian writers of all time, justified the use of the Narnia series in explaining Christian principles to children? He's got a magic wardrobe, and children who can wish themselves out of WWII Britain. He's got magical items given to the children to help them out of all sorts of problems. He's also got an overall redemptive theme that blatantly knocks you over the head with the biblical message. But the point is, he uses magic in a fairy tale to get the point across, and I don't know of anyone who claims to have been dragged into demonology by the series.

"Harry Potter books are filled with blatant demonstrations of witchcraft, occult powers, violence and all sorts of New Age teachings. Each book is a manuscript to children in "how to" use 'good magic.'"

Um, I don't know how to break this to you, but the 'good magic' doesn't work. No matter how many times you say any given "magic" word in the book, it ain't going to turn anyone into anything. The book explains this to the children by stating that wizards and witches are not "muggles" - ordinary people. I don't know what kid hasn't wished they could fly or disappear or magically turn tables on some bully. But kids have the common sense to separate fantasy from reality. A Christian parent should be able to use the book as opportunity to stress this difference and discuss with the child real, live coping skills to assist with everyday problems in a biblical manner.

"One can see how manipulative spiritual powers can be used to get what the child wants. An example: A child goes to bed angry with a family member because he/she can not have what is wanted; the thought from what Harry Potter portrays is to cast a spell and that thing can eventually become yours. Demonic powers are real! Why open the door for our children to experience this kind of activity?"

When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. Is this 'demonic'? Every child in the universe would be possessed if that were the case. I agree that some children can become obsessed with magic and dabble in occult practices. Just like others can be involved with drugs, self-mutilation, and a horrifying spectrum of self-abusive coping mechanisms used as an escape from a life over which they feel utterly powerless. Is the book really to blame? If a child seeks unhealthy coping mechanisms it is because they've either never been taught healthy ones, or the problems/abuse they face are too large to be vented through normal channels. Either way, the book merely serves as a mechanism or inspiration for the child who was seeking the escape in the first place. Dr. Seuss could serve as well.

"Christian parents who take their children to church and instruct them in the Scriptures while at the same time allowing them to participate in, play with activities, literature and programs laced with philosophies of the occult and witchcraft are opening doors for children to demonic activity."

So if I read my nephew a book about Mike Mulligan it will turn him into a steamshovel?

"Here are just a few things that Harry Potter books present to children, as outlined in Phil Arms' book, "Pokemon & Harry Potter, A Fatal Attraction":"

Now we see the source material - not a familiarity with the books and an independent analysis.

"• 'Harry Potter teaches children how to manipulate demonic forces by the power of witchcraft," Arms writes. "It teaches the child how to use God-forbidden techniques to accomplish objectives. The Word of God, however, teaches children how to live a life of faith and how to believe in God to accomplish divine objectives.'

To reiterate: the books are not a primer on magic. They explain quite well why magic won't work for the child. They do not teach about God, that isn't their purpose. But they do demonstrate many biblical principles.

"• 'Harry Potter trains children to rely upon the black arts and occult powers. The Word of God trains children to trust in and place their full confidence in their Heavenly Father for all things. Harry Potter justifies the use of evil to reach personal goals. God's Word equips children to know the difference between evil and righteousness. It demonstrates how righteousness and truth will ultimately triumph over evil.'"

At what point does Harry justify the use of evil? The closest example I can think of is sneaking out of his bedroom at night. If that is the definition of pure evil, than my friends and I have quite a bit to answer for on judgment day. Like most of our high school career. Not that we don't know it already. Goofy

"• 'Contrary to the philosophy espoused by Harry Potter, the Scriptures teach children that right is always right and that wrong is wrong and that it is never right to do wrong. Harry Potter, by repeated inferences and by the omission of spiritual facts, instructs its readers to ignore the reality of a personal God. Harry Potter's world is a world where no one needs to be concerned about the consequences of their sin and rebellion against a Holy God. In Harry's world, the only deity one needs to be aware of or accountable to is him or herself. Self-actualization and self-service are the goals of the individual and therefore people need not concern themselves with any future accountability to the God of the universe." (emphasis mine).

Here lies the crux of the author's real issue with Harry Potter. Like many extremist Christians, she believes that if a work doesn't specifically mention God as the source of all inspiration, edification and strength, it distracts from God and is therefore evil. I understand that a primary principle of Christian teaching is to rely on God, not your own power, and to give Him the glory for your accomplishments. But it doesn't require every thought to about God, or else be automatically banished as unbiblical.

I recall once as a child overhearing a television program being watched by a relative, in which the televangelist denounced rock and roll, country, and all other forms of popular music - including Christian contemporary - as not edifying God and therefore unfit for Christian ears. He left no room for any music that was simply fun. The same relative later harangued me for listening to the devil's music: "We are Family" by Sister Sledge. (Yep, I'm that old). By that definition, "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" is unbiblical and should be banned from existence as a threat to Christianity. What kind of a narrow, weak God can't handle that kind of competition? Certainly not one that has the power to create the universe.

"Harry's world is one of darkness, deception and treachery, where evil is praised and wickedness is rewarded. In that world, children learn to trust satanic forces and to fellowship with demons."

'Nuff said. I understand some Christians feel as though their influence over society is waning and this erosion must be resisted on every front. But given all the rape, murder, drugs, hate, violence, war, and other problems in the world, can't you find something better to pick on?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Stupid Internet Quiz of the Week:

I'm Mrs. Dalloway.

You're Mrs. Dalloway!

by Virginia Woolf

Your life seems utterly bland and normal to the casual observer, but

inside you are churning with a million tensions and worries. The company you surround

yourself with may be shallow, but their effects upon your reality are tremendously deep.

To stay above water, you must try to act like nothing's wrong, but you know that the

truth is catching up with you. You're not crazy, you're just a little unwell. But no

doctor can help you now.

No comment!

Dig a little deeper and I bet you'll find Jimmy Hoffa.
It's inane article Monday - given how much sh*t is going on right now I'm simply not in the mood to blog on complex issues. Liked today's Bleat describing the trevails of obtaining a decent duvet:

Several styles are available for purchase: Laura Ashley having a screaming acid fit, Clown Pelt, creepy-crawly paisley, and one sage-hued item that I can only describe as “ribbed for her pleasure.”

If I can't be out in the sunshine, at least I'll shop vicariously.

Of course, we in Iowa prefer the term "delegates" . . .

Friday, July 23, 2004

I read this quote regarding Meryl Streep's latest work:

"Once and for all: Meryl Streep wants everyone to know she is not playing Sen. Hillary Clinton in Jonathan Demme's new flick, "The Manchurian Candidate."

"I based the character on men, all of it," the Oscar-winner told us Monday night. "I mean, I thought about a lot of women, but trust me, none of them are blond women senators from New York who are liberal." Okay?"

From what I've seen of the promo materials, she's playing it in Hillary clothes with a Hillary haircut, yet denying she ever looked to her for any kind of inspiration. Makes no sense - why make those constuming choices then?

She says something more in this story:

"However, Streep did admit that her performance was based on a public figure - but not one that has so far been recognised. "I think I'm doing a dead-on imitation of this person," she said teasingly. 'But no one's got it.'"

So . . . any opinions? Did she imitate Hillary and is now regretting/downplaying that decision? Is it someone else? If so, who? Man or a woman?

There are photos of Streep in the role here, the trailer here.

Bonus points: Streep seems to imply that the comparison is some odd plot to "get" Hillary: "Streep said she viewed one Internet story about her Manchurian performance as part of an insidious attack on Clinton. 'I thought: "Oh my god. So this is how they get Hillary." This is so far from Hillary Clinton.'" So is it a valid critique that the studio is denying, or is the story planted as insidious attack on Clinton? Or did Streep do the imitation in order to plant the story herself in order to attack the Republicans for supposedly planting the story about Clinton? Yikes, don't go any further with the conspiracy theory - it will seriously make your head spin. It's Friday, we don't want to sprain the brain.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I guess I've got a new motto:

"I'm Mostly Normal."

I think I need a new publicist.

Stupid internet quiz of the week seen on the Yin Blog.


-- Personality Disorder Test - Take It! --

Another oddity found while cruising the web: A pre-sentencing letter written by Martha Stewart to the judge. It makes an interesting read. Once you get past the traditional extolling of her educational and professional endeavors, and a lengthy attempt to explain her reputation as a harsh perfectionist, you get bizarre passages such as these:

"As a child I was drawn to the novels of Willa Cather, Upton Sinclair, Dostoevsky and Gogol. I loved Cather's My Antonia and decided early on that even if I could not be a pioneer in a true "Westward Ho!" manner, I could attempt to forge new territories for American business. . . . ."

First, I wonder at what age she was plowing through Dostoevsky? Even so, how is this truly relevant? I'm not so sure the judge is impressed by name dropping.

"My vacations have never been restful sojurns, but always information gathering expeditions. Oftentimes I would take friends and children with me so they, too, could experience the wonders of the exotic, the beauties of nature, and the hunt for new ideas. . . . . my trips to the Galapagos, to Egypt, India, Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Panama and Peru have afforded me and the company with myriad product ideas, countless columns for our publications, and masses of material[s] for cookbooks and articles, and even flower sources for"

What is this, a resume or a plea for lieniency? She doesn't sound contrite, she sounds like she's bragging. Doesn't she have an advisor or two on staff to tell her how pretentious this appears?

"And here we come, of course, to the conundrum, the problem, the Kafkaesque confusion, what to do?

The problem is yours, but it is also mine."

I don't think it's wise to use the "we're all in this together" approach under these particular circumstances. Again, doesn't she have a boatload of people advising her on this stuff?

The rest is pretty much more of the same.

I have some sympathy, as prison is going to be quite traumatic for her. But I also enjoy the Martha Stewart Holiday Calendar joke that always circulates around the holidays as much as any working woman who's passed bread baked from frozen commercial bread dough off as fresh at Thanksgiving.

The 9-11 Commission Report is online here for free, in PDF format chapter by chapter, or here as a full document also in PDF format, but NY Times registration is required (it's free, but annoying).

It's 535 pages long. Looks like I've got lunchtime reading for some time to come.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Maybe I'm just cynical, but this is freakin' hilarious. Watch the volume if you're at work!!

Thanks, Susan, for emailing it to me.


The link I had got bogged down with too much traffic. If it doesn't work, try here.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Got this "Photo-shop the Iowa Quarter Contest" site emailed to me by a friend. My favorite was this one:

This article indicates that sex once a week is worth $50,000 per year in happiness. I'd make a joke about upping my rates, but that would just be tacky. The story itself did drop into the tacky zone. The headline: "Money Buys Happiness, But Not Sex." Obviously they've never been on Rush Street.

The story goes on to state that the happiness marriage brings is worth $100,000 per year (so could homosexuals not allowed to marry sue for damages?) and a divorce costs you $60,000 in happiness per year.

Obviously this is one of those splashy pseudo-studies, but it doesn't even seem particularly well thought-out. For example, how do the factors relate? I mean, presume I am married and have sex once a week. Does that mean I have $150,000 in happiness? If I then get divorced, but keep the sex up, am I now at -$10,000 per year in happiness? Is it better, then, to have never been married, just date steadily and take the $50,000 per year in happiness points it gives you?

If you comment to the affirmative and are married, may I suggest using a pseudonym?
Slate quiz: Red or Blue - Which Are You? No surprises for me: I'm considered the exact middle.
It looks like the Republican legal defense strategy has been fleshed out:

Saw it on Wonkette.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

UI law professor Nicolas Johnson's got a new editorial in the Des Moines Register pointing out the differences between Omaha's Henry Doorley Zoo and the fake rainforest in Coralville.


Some hard numbers:


"Omaha's adult admission, for numerous attractions, is $9.75. Coralville will charge $15 for a rain forest. Coralville's estimated construction cost: $180 million. Lied Jungle cost $15 million....


Coralville's capital mostly comes from federal, state and local taxpayers. And it's $90 million short. Not a single local benefactor has contributed. More than half of Omaha's attendance comes from "members." And they don't just visit. They finance its zoo projects - before construction begins. Half the Desert Dome's $31.5 million came from one donor."


He also points out the disparity in the population between the two areas, and plenty of other signs the Coralville project is at best poorly thought-through.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Blogging non-existant for the rest of the weekend, unless I just have to vent.  I gotta find myself a place to live in Iowa City or Coralville - preferably a rental house, I don't want to go back to college-style apartment living.  If anyone knows of a nice house for rent, let me know.  I'm really too old for all the slum-style living out there.  Wish me luck, it's nasty timing giving the UI is starting up again.  And if anybody wants to buy a nice little house in the country. . .   This divorce thing is a real b*tch, but I'll be glad when it's all over.


And remember, if you're in the area, it's the last weekend for The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.  Jaret is doing phenomenally in his last-minute role as Ira.  My role is going well, too.  Of course, once I am in my bra (not a kid's show, but nothing you wouldn't see on the beach) I don't think anyone cares much about the whole acting thing.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Just got word I get to act in a swimming pool.

"A unique theatrical opportunity, "Metamorphoses" is a modern adapation of Ovid's Greek Myths all of which are told at least in part in a large pool of water. In order to do so, this production will be staged at the newly opened Coralville Aquatic Center."

First read-through is this weekend before the Allergist's Wife performance.

Quote from a coworker: "That's just weird."

Hmm . . . me? Weird??

That's truly a shock, I'm sure.
Things that made me giggle today:

Fashion tips: What not to wear.

Anonymous headline writers trying way too hard to be creative.

The script I could write in my head for this conversation.

The Iowa Court of Appeals has released a new set of opinions today. I hope you'll be hearing about two related cases in the mainstream press, State v. Jeanine Thomas and State v. Larry Thomas.


According to the opinion:

"After a couple of months of surveillance of the defendant’s home, police obtained a search warrant and executed it on January 24, 2003. While searching one of the bedrooms, officers discovered a hidden hole cut in the box springs. Inside the hole were lithium batteries, some of which had the outer casing removed, and a plastic bag of pseudoephedrine tablets, some of which had been crushed into powder. Other items related to drug manufacture, sale, or use were found in the home. In her husband Larry’s car officers found a homemade hydrochloric acid generator and muriatic acid. In the garage, officers found rubbing alcohol and an empty camping fuel container. Jeanine was home during the search and appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Larry was not home during the search."

The lithium and pseudoephedrine were found "when a battery fell out of a hole cut in the box springs of a bed as officers moved the bed. Shining a flashlight into the hole, officers discovered the batteries and a plastic bag of pseudoephedrine pills." The opinion indicates that the officers testified the bedroom was the defendants' (they lived in the home with their children).

The couple were tried as co-defendants in a jury trial on the charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, possession of the precursor lithium, and possession of the precursor pseudoephedrine. In the jury trial, the State presented the testimony of three police officers and offered several exhibits. After the State rested, the defendants did not present any evidence. Larry’s counsel moved for a directed verdict on behalf of both defendants. Defendants rested, then moved for judgment of acquittal and renewed the motion for directed verdict. The court denied the motions and submitted the case to the jury, which found the defendants guilty. Then the Court held a bench trial regarding the fact that these were second or subsequent violations - evidence of a prior conviction is inadmissible in the jury trial phase of the proceeding. The theory is that it tends to prejudice the jury: "once a druggie, always a druggie, and why not just convict them regardless of the proof they did this crime or not." At the succeeding bench trial on proof of previous convictions, the court found both had been convicted before, making the current convictions second or subsequent offenses.


Criminal code sections used in the charge are as follows. (NOTE: these aren't necessary to understanding the case, so if they make your head spin, just skip them):


1. Except as authorized by this chapter, it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to manufacture or deliver, a controlled substance, a counterfeit substance, or a simulated controlled substance, or to act with, enter into a common scheme or design with, or conspire with one or more other persons to manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance, a counterfeit substance, or a simulated controlled substance.


As used in this chapter: . . .

5. "Controlled substance" means a drug, substance, or immediate precursor in schedules I through V of division II of this chapter. . .


1. Schedule II consists of the drugs and other substances, by whatever official name, common or usual name, chemical name, or brand name designated, listed in this section.

2. Substances, vegetable origin or chemical synthesis. Unless specifically excepted or unless listed in another schedule, any of the following substances whether produced directly or indirectly by extraction from substances of vegetable origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis: . . .

4. Stimulants. Unless specifically excepted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of the following substances having a stimulant effect on the central nervous system:

a. Amphetamine, its salts, optical isomers, and salts of its optical isomers.

b. Methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, and salts of its isomers.


1. A person commits conspiracy with another if, with the intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime which is an aggravated misdemeanor or felony, the person does either of the following:

a. Agrees with another that they or one or more of them will engage in conduct constituting the crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit the crime.

b. Agrees to aid another in the planning or commission of the crime or of an attempt or solicitation to commit the crime.

2. It is not necessary for the conspirator to know the identity of each and every conspirator.

3. A person shall not be convicted of conspiracy unless it is alleged and proven that at least one conspirator committed an overt act evidencing a design to accomplish the purpose of the conspiracy by criminal means.

4. A person shall not be convicted of conspiracy if the only other person or persons involved in the conspiracy were acting at the behest of or as agents of a law enforcement agency in an investigation of the criminal activity alleged at the time of the formation of the conspiracy.


As used in this chapter: . . .

16. "Manufacture" means the production, preparation, propagation, compounding, conversion, or processing of a controlled substance, either directly or by extraction from substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis, and includes any packaging or repackaging of the substance or labeling or relabeling of its container, except that this term does not include the preparation, compounding, packaging, or labeling of a controlled substance:

a. By a practitioner as an incident to administering or dispensing of a controlled substance in the course of the practitioner's professional practice, or

b. By a practitioner, or by an authorized agent under the practitioner's supervision, for the purpose of, or as an incident to, research, teaching, or chemical analysis and not for sale.


4. A person who possesses any product containing any of the following commits a class "D" felony, if the person possesses with the intent to use the product to manufacture any controlled substance: . . .

b. Pseudoephedrine, its salts, optical isomers, salts of optical isomers, or analogs of pseudoephedrine. . . .

f. Lithium.


As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires: . . .

4. "Precursor substance" means a substance which may be used as a precursor in the illegal production of a controlled substance and is specified under section 124B.2.


The rulings for the couple on each count were identical:

"The jury instruction required proof the defendant “knowingly or intentionally possessed” the items. From the evidence presented a rational jury would be left to speculate or base its findings on suspicion or conjecture. See Casady, 491 N.W.2d at 797. We conclude there is insufficient evidence in the record to support the defendant’s convictions for possession of the precursors lithium and pseudoephedrine."

"We find insufficient evidence in the record from which a rational jury could find the defendant agreed to manufacture methamphetamine. A jury would have to speculate about who started preparation of the precursors because there was nothing linking either defendant to their preparation. Consequently, we reverse the defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine."


The alleged precurser items were found in their home that the couple shared only with their children. Some of them, like acetone (nail polish remover) have an innocent use. Others, like lithium batteries with the case torn off and a "a homemade hydrochloric acid generator," appear to have no legitimate use outside the manufacture of meth.

The State had to prove that the defendants possessed the precursor items, and that they conspired to manufacture meth. At least the possession seems a no-brainer. So why were all charges dismissed?

Because the police did not find the lithium and pseudoephedrine in the hands of either defendant, they had to prove "constructive possession": to provide evidence the defendants had actual knowledge of the drugs and had the authority or right to maintain control of them.

The Court reviewed some prior caselaw in making this determination:

State v. Cashen, 666 N.W.2d 566 (Iowa 2003): The defendant was in the back seat of a car with three others, including his girlfriend on his lap. After a traffic stop, police found a plastic bag of marijuana wedged in the crevice between the seat back and seat, next to where Cashen was sitting. Even though Cashen admitted knowledge, there was no inference of dominion and control over them, and hence, no constructive possession.

State v. Dullard, 668 N.W.2d 585 (Iowa 2003): The defendant was in joint possession of the house with his mother and there was a handwritten note found with the precursors and other evidence of drug manufacture that linked the defendant to drug manufacture. The supreme court found constructive possession of precursors was proven.

State v. Bash, 670 N.W.2d 135 (Iowa 2003): Drugs were found in a box on a nightstand on the husband’s side of the bed. The wife told police that if there were drugs in the house, they would be in the box, but denied they were hers or that she had any authority or right to maintain control over the contents of the box. The supreme court stated, "the authority or right to maintain control includes something more than the 'raw physical ability' to exercise control over the controlled substance. The defendant must have some proprietary interest or an immediate right to control or reduce the controlled substance to the defendant’s possession."

In this case, the defendants made no incriminating statements or actions upon the discovery of the items. No fingerprints from either of them were on the items. No testimony indicated the defendants knew the items were hidden in the box springs. So the Court of Appeals found that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that either of them had dominion and control over the lithium and pseudoephedrine that was hidden in their own bed.

Regarding the conspiracy to manufacture meth claim, the Court noted that neither of the defendants fled law enforcement, could be shown to have been present when a meth lab was operating, or smell of the ether:

"Although the house, garage, and car contained many of the items needed to operate a meth lab, some of the items in the home have a legitimate use, such as the pliers, tinfoil, and acetone . . . the most a rational jury could find is that the defendant knew a meth lab could be made from the materials found at the scene."


It appears from the Court's ruling that the police must either have caught the defendants in the middle of operating the lab, or must have found some other evidence to prove that they controlled the items found in their own house, in their own bed. Like possibly a note, like State v. Dullard. I can see it:

"Honey, please pick up lithium batteries on your way home. Make sure you put it on the Meth Lab Inc. expense form - we've got to be better about keeping the business expenses separate from our personal charges. And for God's sake remember to drop off the delivery at Methwhore Streetcorner. The clients are complaining we were late three times last week.


Sweetie Pie"

Monday, July 12, 2004

Gotta love the Onion. But personally, I think they're accusing the wrong rabbit in this blind item.
For the longest time I couldn't figure out why the widow of Tom Lyon, the farmer slain by Rodney Heemstra in a property dispute, was fighting the release of Lyon's medical records to his life insurance company. After all, it's pretty standard stuff. Now I understand. Sounds suspiciously like a fishing expedition by the defense to me.

I do understand that Heemstra's defense centers around Lyon's alleged bad temper. But evidence of that was presented by Heemstra at trial and it was weighed by the jury in reaching its decision. According to Iowa law, "A person is justified in the use of reasonable force when the person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend oneself or another from any imminent use of unlawful force." Iowa Code Section 704.3

Iowa Courts have also held that ". . .where the accused asserts he or she acted in self-defense and the slightest supporting evidence is introduced. Then the violent, quarrelsome, dangerous or turbulent character of the deceased may be shown, both by evidence of his or her reputation in that respect and by witnesses who can testify from an actual knowledge of the victim's character." State v. Begey (Iowa 2003).

The jury apparently decided that the testimony regarding Lyon's temper or lack thereof was not sufficient to show that Heemstra reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to defend himself, based on the nature and severity of both Lyon's and Heemstra's actions. Even if the medical records do show some physical reason behind Lyon's temperment, I can't see that it changes what the manifestation of that temperment was, or what a reasonable response was given that Heemstra didn't have access to the records at the time.

Hypothetically speaking only - I'm not in a position to judge the deceased: Presume the defense is right, Lyon had a temper. Presume they find some deep dark reason why he has one in the medical records. If the manifestations of rage - yelling, physical abuse etc., were the same, would the fact he were angry because he had ADHD or bipolar disorder be any different than if he were angry because he was on crack, or that he was just plain mean? Would the deadly response by Heemstra become more reasonable, by simply changing the physical motivation behind Lyon's anger without changing the manifestation of the anger itself? The jury needs to base it's decision about Heemstra's state of mind on the information available to Heemstra at the time of the murder.

For example, in February the Iowa Appellate Court said in State v. Carey that: "Based on all of the evidence set forth above, we conclude there was sufficient evidence in the record to generate a jury question as to whether Carey reasonably believed McNamee and Krogh were not police officers and thus reasonably believed his actions were necessary to defend himself from the imminent use of unlawful force." The men involved were police officers. But the question was whether Carey would have known that, or whether he believed the force used against him was unlawful.

I don't think this part of the appeal should get very far, even if they do give him access to the medical records.

Weird news - dogs and cats, living together... mass hysteria! Via Instapundit.
Thanks to everyone who wished us well for the performance of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife at City Circle last weekend.

(NOTE: We no longer say "break a leg" in this show. It was taken waaayyy too literally.)

For those of you who are wondering: In the most awesome bit of memorization I've ever witnessed, Jaret Morlan was able to pull off the role of Ira sans script on Friday night. This was two days after his first rehearsal. I am truly amazed.

The only real problems on opening night: 1) Phantom doorbells and other wierd sound cues wafting throughout the performance. 2) Me tripping while carrying a glass of sprite after the blackout on Act I, Scene 2. No, I didn't break anything. I just looked like a total idiot.

Regardless, we're still looking for an old priest and a young priest to do the exorcism. I'm told the actors from Avow won't count.

To quote one of the techies, live theater done in a 'combat situation' provides "a bigger rush than cocaine - and it's legal." I think it will take another two weeks for the adreneline to leave my system.

The rest of the weekend's runs were smooth. We've now a two day hiatus before rehearsal Wednesday and this week's performances on Thu-Sun. Audience feedback is very positive, and it looks like this train wreck could be a success after all.

Knock on wood.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Combine live theater with Monty Python and everyone wins.

According to the Chicago Tribune (registration required, sorry), David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry and Hank Azaria have signed to star in the musical "Monty Python's Spamalot." The Mike Nichols-directed show, based on the fabulously chaotic 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," will begin its pre-Broadway tryout at the Chicago Shubert Theatre Dec. 21. "Spamalot" is expected to end its Chicago run Jan. 16, begin previews Feb. 7 at the midtown Manhattan Shubert Theatre, and open March 10, according to Broadway in Chicago.

Key quote:

"He leaked one detail regarding the stage version, relating to the knights' encounter with the sniveling Frenchman played on the screen by John Cleese: 'Remember the cow that gets flung over the wall? The cow has a song. That's all I'm saying.'"

I got a picture of that in my head and I can't stop giggling. I think I'm definitely going to have to see this somehow. On a side note, you can find complete copies of the Python scripts here. Impress your friends, memorize the parrot sketch. Maybe not.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

By the way, if you're in the Iowa City / Coralville area this weekend or next, you could check out my performance as Lee in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife at City Circle Acting Company.

Given how things are going, I'd recommend it if for no other reason than to see what happens next. Kind of like stopping at the site of a train wreck. Or watching the OJ car chase on TV.

Yesterday, one of the other lead actors fell off the stage and was carted away by ambulance. Yes, we open in two days. No, we don't know the prognosis yet. I hope to find out tonight at rehearsal. This after replacing the lead character with only a few weeks of rehearsal left, and many other miscellaneous mishaps inherent to live theater.

The cast is good even if the stage gods are against us. Light a candle or ten. Think good thoughts. Yikes.


By the way, it isn't a kid's show. If you do come out to gawk, don't bring the little ones. Just a sense of humor.


Prognosis: a shattered kneecap. He needs surgery and definitely won't be up for acting. Jaret Morlan our director, will attempt to age himself some 25 years in order to take over the role.

We're going to tape lines on every conceivable prop.

The set is a NY apartment, complete with kitchen. We had some of those magnetic poetry words on the refrigerator. Someone reorganized all of them to spell one big "HELP !"

The Press-Citizen is apparently running articles on local theater again, because we got a write up in the Go section.

If you don't have the patience, the jist: I hate it when legitimate newspapers print unsupported, biased diatribes on the editorial page instead of articles that examine the facts and provide a detailed, well-reasoned opinion. It just wastes space and adds white noise to the already crowded national debate.


Op-ed columns exist to provide a forum for reasoned opinions on the issues. But isn't the operative word "reasoned" - logical, well thought-out, supported by fact, rational? Otherwise, the press isn't educating the public, but simply ranting. So please explain to me how this drivel gets published in a college town?

I've seen Fahrenheit 9-11. I am still gathering sufficient information to come to a reasoned conclusion about the claims made by the film, which is one of the reasons why I haven't blogged on it. But given the article by Ms. Yoder-Short, I am apparently mistaken in believing facts and/or a knowledge of the issues are essential elements for a reasoned opinion.

I find this particularly ironic, given the very title of the article: "Fahrenheit 9/11' challenges us to sort through 'truth'." The concept of truth versus fallacy implies a verifiable reality, tangible facts as evidence that one position is accurate and another is not. So with what facts and information does the article arm the reader, in order to improve the ability to discern truth from fiction?

"Recognizing the real thing can be difficult. My daughter loves to offer me her delicious looking doughnut. It appears to have sweet chocolate frosting. If you take time to sniff this delicacy, your nose is disappointed by the distinct smell of plastic. It is a deceptive doughnut, a trick to make you think you are getting something you are not."

Premise #1: There is truth and there is falsity. An example is provided. While some philosophers could argue with the notion of an objective reality, I can agree with it. Not a bad start.

"I have been thinking about recognizing doughnuts this week and judging truth. I blame Michael Moore for my new doughnut craze. I joined the crowds in Iowa City that viewed "Fahrenheit 9/11" (showing at Campus 3 theater at the Old Capital Mall), and I'm left trying to figure out which view of U.S. politics is the real one. Who offers the authentic smell of America - George W. Bush, Michael Moore or someone else?"

Premise #2: The concept of objective truth holds in politics. More difficult, that, even on a basic conceptual level. But the particular permutation that she requires us to agree with is even more difficult: not only is there a right and a wrong, but there is a "true" America and a "false" America, with one represented by George W. Bush, and the other by Michael Moore.

I find the concept of a "true" America interesting, but not plausible. I am a white female in Iowa. My world looks quite different from an African-American male in Los Angeles, or a Hawaiian . . . well, anybody, out in the middle of the ocean. Is their perspective true and mine the fallacy? Is any given person more "real" or "valid" than another? Putting that aside for a moment, I could look to the polls and decide that if a majority of Americans believe in one way, then it must be the "true" American belief. But according to the latest polls, George W. Bush is supported by approximately half the population. Can the difference of a few percentage points one way or another in the polls legitimize one viewpoint as truly American? Can one half of the population accurately say to the other that their view is invalid and illegitimate? So by what criteria does Ms. Yoder-Short weigh Michael Moore and George Bush to determine that one is truly American?

"The movie itself seemed to be about smelling out what is really going on. Did our president and the CEO's of oil and military-contract companies frost the Iraqi war with sweet deceitfulness?"

Premise #3: If George Bush was deceitful on the Iraqi war, then Michael Moore must be the true American. This just doesn't wash as a concept. It distills the entire premise of being a true American down to a single issue. I think the baseball, hot dog and apple pie people would have a problem with that. It also equates lying with being a 'false' American. I think Bill Clinton's folks would have a problem with that. So would the 40% of Americans who lie to their spouses, and the 75% of us who lie about our weight. Last I looked, we weren't all getting deported.

But for the sake of argument, let's give her this one. I do agree that Americans generally value truth, despite the evidence to the contrary. So can she provide facts to bolster this premise?

"You don't have to have a degree in political science to understand truth, but you do have to have a nose that can smell deception. We all have our biases, political and otherwise. I had read reviews but tried to leave biases behind; my lower class partiality and a deep motherly bias prevailed."

Premise #4: The fact I'm female, a mother, and from the lower class make me biased, but my bias defines truth and what is truly American.

Hold the phone. We've been dealing with truth vs. fallacy, objective facts, reasoned opinions. Did she just call partiality and bias truth, or am I misreading this? Did she just seriously say that the only truly American viewpoint is female and lower class? Or is she simply ranting?

Where are the facts? The evidence? The insight? Must be later in the article.

"Viewing the film with the eyes of the poor and have-nots enables one to see the huge burden underprivileged children are asked to bear. The film shows the poor of Flint, Mich., being recruited. When members of Congress are given the same opportunity to sign up their sons and daughters, they scamper like ants from a burning hill."

Premise #5: Some poor children are signing up for the armed forces. Members of Congress who were asked by Michael Moore to sign up their children did not. Therefore, Michael Moore is truly American and George Bush is not.

Fact: George Bush has no control over whether members of Congress, Democrat or Republican, agree to submit their children to terms of service in the armed forces.

Fact: Members of Congress cannot sign their children into the armed forces any more than I can sign in my neighbor or pesky little brother. Presumably they are aware of that fact, as I am?

Fact: Neither Moore nor Yoder-Short provides us with statistics on how many children of Congressmen - or Congressmen themselves - have been or are currently serving in the armed forces. Nor have they told us how that number compares, per capita, with the number of poor children - in Flint or otherwise - who have or have not served. Another point: Moore's film also never gave the full context surrounding his request to the politicians. How many of the senators and house members approached have children who are all still in diapers? Does that make them less American? Does that in turn make GWB less American? If you're going to imply such things, should you be obligated to provide the full disclosure?

Fact: Only about 28 million Americans are veterans or currently serving in the armed forces. If serving in the armed forces is required to be an American, are the other 250 million of us applying for our exit visas yet?

Conclusion: Presuming that serving in the armed forces makes one person more American despite the fact that the majority of Americans have not so served, and presuming that George Bush has control of over the private lives of the children of the people in congress (absent some weird hostage situation), we still don't have enough information to determine whether or not Michael Moore or George Bush is the true American.

"Viewing the film with the eyes of a mother is excruciating. "Fahrenheit 9/11" smells of grieving mothers. There is the Iraqi mother who cries out asking Allah why her son had to die. You can smell the grief and taste the unquenchable anguish. Later, we return to Flint to hear the mother of Michael Pedersen read her son's last letter, a letter written just before his helicopter was shot down. This mother, thousands of miles away from the Iraqi mother, asks the same question: Why? Why my son?

This question should be our question: Why?

Killing is no easy task. A young soldier tells us that a part of him died each time he killed. Even our sons and daughters that come home will be forever changed. Why are our children dying? Is it for democracy and freedom and ridding the world of terrorism or is it about oil and wealth?"

Premise #6: If we are in the Iraq war for democracy, freedom, and ridding the world of terrorism, then George Bush is the true American. If it is for oil and wealth, then Michael Moore is the true American.

There are all kinds of holes in the logic, but I won't dissect them here. For the sake of argument I'll grant that there are only two possibilities for why we are in Iraq, oil or freedom, and no mixed motives are possible. I'll even grant that if oil is the motive, then Moore must be a true American, a line of reasoning that would make my former logic professor's head spin. Just please, dear God, give me some facts to assist me in my analysis one way or the other: are we in Iraq for oil or for freedom?

"What is worth dying for? Who's answer do we accept?

"Fahrenheit 9/11" isn't anti-American but hopes for more from America. Last weekend we celebrated our nation with fireworks, patriotic parades and music. Let's continue to celebrate by calling our great nation to be greater, to rise above sending troops to kill for oil, to kill for the haves. Let's work hard at smelling what we are being told.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" challenges us to sort out what to believe. Critics continue to attack Moore's biases. I'm not always sure what to believe, but I do know that the pain of war must be taken seriously. I do know that I would rather cut back on oil consumption than send anyone to kill or die. I do know that "the war against terrorism" hasn't diminished terrorism.

If you haven't seen the movie, go and think about what is real and what is fake frosting. For now, for the real view of America, I'm trusting mothers. They've had practice in discerning a lot of plastic doughnuts. Mothers are good at smelling what stinks in life, and losing a son reeks.

If only there was a mother running for president, she'd have my vote."

"I'm not sure what to believe?" "For now . . . I'm trusting mothers?" That's it? Was there a fact in there I somehow missed? Did she really just say that she would vote for a mother, any mother? How about this one? Or this one?

Premise #7: War is bad, losing a son is bad, therefore Michael Moore is the true American.

I can't begin to justify this one. War is bad? Always? I thought she just said that it was okay if we were in Iraq for freedom and ridding the world of terrorism? I guess not.

Like most Americans, I am sifting through the massive amounts of information being thrown at me regarding the situation in Iraq to determine my opinion on what is true and good and right. I read newspaper and magazine articles closely to glean any new facts to gain insight on the situation. But unlike Ms. Yoder-Short, I don't simply decide that one perspective is correct because the person holding it is female, or poor, or Michael Moore.

If the Press-Citizen can't find any better fodder for op-ed columns than this sort of vaporous ranting, I can give it the names of several good bloggers who might be happy to contribute.