Thursday, September 30, 2004


In looking at my pageviews, I noticed a few Technorati links I'd not seen before. Following it back, I got this:

Recent Posts from Liberal Bloggers< prev | 10 of 34 | next >

Lawyer Spin?

from Random Mentality

Indexed 23 minutes ago

<$BlogItemNumber$>"><$BlogItemNumber$>"><$BlogItemNumber$>">I noted on How Appealing this entry the press has stories out about how the Southern District of NY struck down part of the Patriot Act. It's being reported as a blow against the Bush administration via the Patriot Act. For example: "But the ACLU argues that Marrero's ruling is a... (Read Full Post)

Life Imitating Art?

from Random Mentality

Indexed 23 minutes ago

<$BlogItemNumber$>"><$BlogItemNumber$>"><$BlogItemNumber$>">In Australia, Kelly Rae Hennessey is suing McDonald's claiming she suffered a loss of libido after biting into a cheeseburger that contained a rock, according to Overlawyered. One of the plays in the New Play Festival at City Circle concerns an injured person suing for . . . um. . . the... (Read Full Post)

For a bad day, take two

from Random Mentality

Indexed 24 minutes ago

<$BlogItemNumber$>"><$BlogItemNumber$>"><$BlogItemNumber$>">From Questions and Observations Blog, Things You'd Love to Say at Work, But Can't (Read Full Post)

I excerpted because the "recent post" lists tend to move fast and the link will probably be bad quite soon. My point? I've apparently been categorized as a "liberal blog" by Technorati. I find the label quite interesting, as I've never been able to categorize my views myself: am I liberal, conservative, or do I just like to argue a lot?

I suspect the last . . .


The New Play Festival made the DI. Woo hoo!

More Spin

I was doing a little research after a friend indicated that the Bush Administration was trying to push for reinstatement of the draft.

Senate bill 89

Title: A bill to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Hollings, Ernest F. [SC] (introduced 1/7/2003) Cosponsors (None)

Related Bills: H.R.163

Latest Major Action: 1/7/2003 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

House bill 163

Title: To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] (introduced 1/7/2003) Cosponsors (14)

Related Bills: S.89

Latest Major Action: 2/3/2003 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Executive Comment Requested from DOD.

The problem is that both Hollings and Rangel are democrats.

So why is the rumor that the Bush administration wants it? Yesterday's editorial by Rekha Basu provides some insight. She acknowledges that the only bills up now regarding the draft are from Dems. She wonders in print how this morphed into a rumor about the Bush administration reinstating the draft. She even analyzes the motives of the democratic sponsors of the bills:

"Why would a liberal Democrat, whose district includes a disproportionate number of poor people and people of color, favor a draft during such a controversial war? Rangel argues that without one, poor and working-class people from inner cities and rural areas are disproportionately the ones who fight and die. A draft, he has said, would help balance that."

But she ends the article with this:

"But Harkin's press secretary, Maureen Knightly, says it's the path Bush is inevitably heading us down. "If George W. Bush is re-elected, there's no guarantee of what could happen - particularly as the National Guard and reservists are being stretched so thin, and re-extended," she said.

Could it come to that?

If it does, the Iraq war will start to look a lot more like Vietnam. And imagine what that could set off in an America already deeply divided by the war, and just about everything else."

So the only sponsors of bills to reinstate the draft are democrats, the Bush administration denies any intentions to reinstate the draft, but because democratic spokespeople say Bush is likely to reinstate the draft, it must be so?

Playing this story so soon after the Dan Rather memos could become a problem for Kerry, if the story is as loudly and publicly debunked as that one was.

When pundits play on the emotions of the voters by focusing on sensational stories that are then proven false, the question is what sticks in the voter's mind: the story, or the debunking? It it's the original false story, you're fine. But if it's the debunking, the voter is going to be much more likely to write off any valid criticisms as if they're just another fake. A calculated risk.

Life Imitating Art?

In Australia, Kelly Rae Hennessey is suing McDonald's claiming she suffered a loss of libido after biting into a cheeseburger that contained a rock, according to Overlawyered. One of the plays in the New Play Festival at City Circle concerns an injured person suing for . . . um. . . the opposite problem. I'm playing the plaintiff's lawyer in that one. We open tonight!!! (Just remembered that. Alrighty then.)

For a bad day, take two

From Questions and Observations Blog, Things You'd Love to Say at Work, But Can't.

Lawyer Spin?

I noted on How Appealing this entry the press has stories out about how the Southern District of NY struck down part of the Patriot Act.

It's being reported as a blow against the Bush administration via the Patriot Act. For example:

"But the ACLU argues that Marrero's ruling is a warning to the government about some of its tactics in the war on terrorism. "This is a wholesale refutation of the administration's use of excessive secrecy and unbridled power under the Patriot Act," said Ann Beeson, an ACLU lawyer. . . . " Washington Post

"Declaring that personal security is as important as national security, a judge Wednesday blocked the government from conducting secret, unchallengeable searches of Internet and telephone records as part of its fight against terrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union called the ruling a "landmark victory" against the Justice Department's post-September 11 law enforcement powers." - AP

But I've learned to follow the links when How Appealing's Howard Bashman refers me to more reading from legal experts: like to this post by Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy. Turns out the stricken law had nothing to do with the Patriot Act, it's actually part of a 1986 law known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

As Kerr says:

"The early reports are trying to view this ruling as a rebuke to antiterrorism strategies of the Bush Administration, but that's just not accurate: if anything, it is a rebuke to the antiterrorism strategies of the Reagan Administration."

I'm not an expert on this area by any means, but it would seem a simple matter of fact checking. I looked into the law in question: 18 USC 2709. I found that it was modified by the 2001 Patriot Act.

For those of you into the details, here's how it changed. For the rest of you, skip to the end for my point.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act had read:

§ 2709. Counterintelligence access to telephone toll and transactional records

(a) Duty to provide.--A wire or electronic communication service provider shall comply with a request for subscriber information and toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional records in its custody or possession made by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under subsection (b) of this section.

(b) Required certification.--The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or his designee in a position not lower than Deputy Assistant Director at Bureau headquarters or a Special Agent in Charge in a Bureau field office designated by the Director, may--

(1) request the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records of a person or entity if the Director (or his designee in a position not lower than Deputy Assistant Director) certifies in writing to the wire or electronic communication service provider to which the request is made that--

(A) the name, address, length of service, and toll billing records sought are relevant to an authorized foreign counterintelligence investigation; and

(B) there are specific and articulable facts giving reason to believe that the person or entity to whom the information sought pertains is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power as defined in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801); and

(2) request the name, address, and length of service of a person or entity if the Director (or his designee in a position not lower than Deputy Assistant Director) certifies in writing to the wire or electronic communication service provider to which the request is made that--

(A) the information sought is relevant to an authorized foreign counterintelligence investigation; and

(B) there are specific and articulable facts giving reason to believe that communication facilities registered in the name of the person or entity have been used, through the services of such provider, in communication with--

(i) an individual who is engaging or has engaged in international terrorism as defined in section 101(c) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or clandestine intelligence activities that involve or may involve a violation of the criminal statutes of the United States; or

(ii) a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power under circumstances giving reason to believe that the communication concerned international terrorism as defined in section 101(c) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or clandestine intelligence activities that involve or may involve a violation of the criminal statutes of the United States.

(c) Prohibition of Certain Disclosure.— No wire or electronic communication service provider, or officer, employee, or agent thereof, shall disclose to any person that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained access to information or records under this section."

. . .

Part of the October 2001 Patriot Act had modified it to read:

§ 2709. Counterintelligence access to telephone toll and transactional records

(a) Duty to provide.--A wire or electronic communication service provider shall comply with a request for subscriber information and toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional records in its custody or possession made by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under subsection (b) of this section.

(b) Required certification.--The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or his designee in a position not lower than Deputy Assistant Director at Bureau headquarters or a Special Agent in Charge in a Bureau field office designated by the Director, may--

(1) request the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records of a person or entity if the Director (or his designee) certifies in writing to the wire or electronic communication service provider to which the request is made that the name, address, length of service, and toll billing records sought are relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such an investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and

(2) request the name, address, and length of service of a person or entity if the Director (or his designee) certifies in writing to the wire or electronic communication service provider to which the request is made that the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such an investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

(c) Prohibition of Certain Disclosure.— No wire or electronic communication service provider, or officer, employee, or agent thereof, shall disclose to any person that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained access to information or records under this section.

. . .

The modifications were made in Pub.L. 107-56 section 505a. The Patriot Act modifications changed the language under Section B of the old Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Some of the modifications were substantive, others a simplification of the numbering. The problem? The court's ruling actually struck down Section C, not A or B. The court found C to be an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech, and held the entire statute unconstitutional because it found that the provisions of C could not be severed from A and B. (Severability would've allowed the rest of the statute to stand and only C to be struck down).

Of course, C was not ever touched by the Patriot Act in any way, only B was modified. So it looks to me as though the reference to the Patriot Act is really inaccurate, though it sounds like better copy - more relevant to the current election.

My question: The Times statement a direct quote from an ACLU lawyer. It's possible the reporters simply ran the quote without checking for accuracy. A bad policy, in my opinion, but as the ACLU is a legal entity, and the person being quoted a lawyer, I can see the temptation to simply take the quote at face value rather than wading through the code.

But did the ACLU fail to notice which portion of the law the ruling concerned? Make a sloppy reference? Or was the Patriot Act cited to make the ruling seem more relevant to the current political landscape? After all, it's a little late to be attacking Reagan's policies.

Honesty in Politics

Gotta love this concept: Kerry Haters for Kerry.

We're Everywhere

Greenman has pointed out two more Iowa blogs, Thoughts from the Oasis in the Corn and On the Stage, both theater-related. I had no idea Matt Falduto blogged. If you count mine, as I've recently done a Dreamwell show, that makes three blogs in that relatively small theater company. How cool! It's so fun to run across people you know in the "real world" again in the vastness of cyberspace.

In reading his blog, Matt's got a thoughtful post on the use of real names online. It's true that it's a risk: once you go online you enlarge your circle of potential stalker-type people from your immediate geographical area to encompass any idiot with a computer worldwide. Anyone with basic Google/telephone search capabilities can generally come up with your address and a handy map to your home. Particularly as a female, I seriously debated going the pseudonym route based on safety issues.

But I don't like the idea of being afraid, and the number of bloggers out there is so high that I feel the statistical likelihood of being a target is, in my opinion, a doable risk.

Besides, I want credit for my snarky opinions, d*mn it. If I ever say anything intelligent, I want the world to know about it. Just be sure to let me know, too. Wouldn't want to miss out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

You're right, but. . . .

The new decisions of the Iowa Court of Appeals are up. One case I noticed involved a sentencing hearing. In State v. Root, the Court held:

"After thoroughly reviewing the record, we determine the district court appeared to exhibit and express a predetermined sentencing bias in this case. We specifically call attention to the fact the court commenced the sentencing proceedings by stating he was going to send Root to prison unless Root was able to talk his way out of it. The problem with these statements is they were made before the court considered or discussed any of the relevant sentencing factors and reflect a fixed, predetermined sentencing posture. This predetermined posture appears to have precluded the exercise of the court’s discretion in rendering judgment. See State v. Hildebrand, 280 N.W.2d 393, 396 (Iowa 1979). In addition, the court made mention of the number of hours the police had expended on Root’s case. While this statement normally would not be problematic, we do have concerns with this statement in this case, particularly in light of the other comments made by the district court throughout the sentencing proceeding."

An examination of the record makes it pretty clear what the Court was talking about:

THE COURT: Okay. Mr. Root, you’re starting out in a hole in this case. It’s a big hole. My intent today is to send you to prison. I’m going to give you the opportunity to talk yourself out of that. You better be real persuasive, because there’s a series of incidents that indicate a course of conduct to me in reviewing the Minutes of Testimony that are almost eerie in the sense of being scary. So it’s your opportunity at this point in time to tell me why I shouldn’t send you to prison.

ROOT: Okay. Should I stand up?


ROOT: Okay. Your Honor, I’m here to take responsibility for what I’ve done. I made a mistake. Like you said. I was taking an over-the-counter steroid.

THE COURT: That’s a cop-out. I don’t care to hear that. I never care to hear that. You’re responsible for your conduct.

ROOT: Okay.

THE COURT: Period. Don’t sit here and tell me that that’s a result of some over-the-counter steroid. . . . .

THE COURT: Not a real good job of talking your way out of this. . . . .

THE COURT: I assume you have read the Minutes of Testimony. There are hundreds of hours that the police department has spent with the crimes that you’ve committed. . . . .

THE COURT: Oh, golly. Maybe you should have gone to trial, then. Maybe what I ought to do at this point in time is allow you to withdraw the plea agreement and go to trial on these things. I mean, frankly, I am not one bit sympathetic to you. Not at all. I mean, your conduct here, the State could easily prove the burglaries here. They cut you a big deal.

ROOT: Like I said, I have read the reports, Your Honor, but there are some things in there that didn’t happen that they said took place.

THE COURT: Maybe you ought to take your shot at a trial in this and prove those things didn’t happen. They have fingerprints all over the place.

ROOT: I’m not arguing that, Your Honor. I’m not arguing about the crimes they said I committed, but there are things in there that was said between Mindy [the victim] and the police officers that was just taken out of context. I’m not here arguing the fact of what I’ve done, Your Honor. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to take responsibility for that.

But then, there's the kicker:

"We conclude the district court abused its sentencing discretion, considered impermissible facts, and the matter should be remanded for resentencing."

All right and good and legally correct. Now he's got to go back in front of the trial court for resentencing. . . .

Good luck?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

How Dan Rather should've handled things:

A retraction from National Geographic upon finding faked photos. It is simple, honest, and preserves the dignity of the publication. CBS should have initiated an investigation, withheld comment pending the investigation, then issued something like this. Instead, we got this (my own paraphrase):

1) What do those stupid bloggers know anyway? Bunch of dorky geeks in pajamas, that's what they are. Why don't they get a real job with an expense account, like we've got?

2) You aren't seriously going to question this, are you? We're CBS!

2) The memo is real, d*mn it!

3) We've got good sources. Lots of expert-type people with fancy acronyms behind their names said it was real. So there, nyah.

4) Okay, maybe we didn't exactly listen to our people with fancy acronyms. But we still believe it's real, and we've found more people with acronyms to discredit our first group of people with acronyms. The new people with acronyms say it's definitely real.

5) We got it from a credible source, so it should be real. It really isn't our fault. Can't we just all get along? C'mon. We're CBS, Dan Rather. The good guys, remember? Believe us. Please??

6) Even if it isn't real, it's what he would've written. If he'd written something. Really. His secretary said so. So did his friends. It's the spirit of the thing, you know. Think of it as a reputable biography. Or a ghostwriter. That's it, a ghostwriter. Just giving voice to the original thoughts of the author. No need to bicker and argue over who wrote who. That's the way it was.

All they did was shoot their own credibility, and poison the issue for the Kerry campaign. Bush supporters actually owe them a favor.

Via Instapundit.


That said, I note this post on Who Tends the Fires warning bloggers from getting too celebratory. (Also found this link on the Instamaster, but I don't think he needs me to link him three times today.):

"Some of the celebration is probably even genuine... but in every "Bloggers help take down CBS!" expose, every journalist has that other voice whispering in his/her ear: "Next time, that might be me." Old Media's going to be watching "Pajama Media" a *lot* more closely from here on in. We were instrumental in knocking a hole in not just the credibility of CBS and Rather, but potentially also wrecking the long term credibility of every other old media organ. It's more than a bit of human nature to not place all the blame for Rather's embarassment on Rather's sloppiness and willingness to lunge at a story - but to place a lot of it on the "upstart medium" that was instrumental in shooting him down. Everyone felt the toxic splash, the amount and degree of distancing and damage control attests to that."

Good point. The warning is against the media co-opting the blogs, then discrediting them. That ties in nicely with this article, "Blogging sells, and Sells Out":

"I should have seen the writing on the wall earlier this year when the World Economic Forum, the ferociously trend-following CEO club, sponsored a panel session on blogging at its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The discussion quickly turned to the commercial possibilities of blogging, leading one advertising executive to wonder why the big media companies didn't swoop down and buy up the popular blogs while they were still cheap.

At the time, the idea of buying a blog struck me as funny, like trying to buy a conversation. Now, having seen blogs I admired mutate into glorified billboards, and having witnessed the emergence of the "sponsored" blog (in which the blogger is literally an employee of, or contractor to, a corporate owner), I can see who's likely to have the last laugh."

I'd add the idea that someone in the media may decide to do an expose soon on how the blogosphere gets things wrong and can't be trusted. With links. I stand by what I write, but am I 100% certain I've gone back and posted updates to every item where new information has surfaced that makes my old opinion crap, no matter how tired I am? Ladies and gentlemen, check your archives.

Just a thought.
An interesting idea: everything you wanted to know about everything but were afraid to ask.
Update on the kidnapped CNN producer I blogged on yesterday:

"Palestinian security forces have tracked down the Gaza kidnappers of an Israeli Arab producer for CNN television and expect him to be freed soon, an Israeli Arab legislator close to the Palestinian leadership said on Tuesday. 'After contacts between security agencies and the kidnappers it was decided that the journalist will be freed in a very short time,' said one security official."

I wonder who the kidnappers thought they'd pressure by capturing an Israeli Arab? And I'd love to know what those "contacts" consisted of.

The perennial renewal of the 19-only/21-only debate is making it's way into the Press-Citizen and the DI lately.

I have a slightly different view on the issue than I did a few years ago, partly based on personal experience a glitch in the system.

It's a fairly well-established tradition that actors tend to have dinner after the performances. Most of the casts I've been in like to find a moderately quiet place with good food and a capable bartender, then sit around and rehash all the funny, embarassing, really cool stuff that happened during the performance. One father and daughter, who both are amazing actors and have been in many performances with me, have had problems getting into some of the places based on her being below the age of 19. She drinks only water, and is accompanied by her parent, but cannot get in under the terms of the ordinance. We've worked around it so far, as we always do when 'unaccompanied' teenagers are in the cast. But it seems odd to me that a father can allow his daughter to have a glass of wine in their home, yet can't give permission for her to sip on a glass of water and eat her cheese fries while the rest of the cast kvetches. I believe an amendment is in order?? Comments anyone?


State 29 makes a good point: I was addressing the narrower issue of the age ordinance to enter bars, when I'm actually in favor of either lowering the drinking age to 18, or raising all the other "ages" to 21, as I blogged a few months back. I think the "why can't they drink a beer if they can die in the military" argument is morally valid.

The ordinance is actually just another stop-gap attempt to enforce a law that is questionable in the first place. Also, as I see that much of the world does quite nicely without any "age" whatsoever, and I am in favor of having as few laws as we can get by with and remain a civilized nation, I'm not so sure I won't be revising my opinion again in the future. Why is it we as a nation feel so compelled to make others conform to our ideas of what is moral?

"Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits." Mark Twain

Some good advice for bloggers on Talk Left. I hadn't been aware I was supposed to email other bloggers with my posts. I seriously doubt I'll start, it takes too long to write the d*mn things in the first place, much less copy and email them to other people. Any links I get are either from regular readers or because the blog gods have smiled upon me.


I noticed the other day I'd been added to the "Very Nice" category on the blogroll at Begging the Question, another really nice legal blog. Thanks, guys. As for legal blogs, I generally peruse:

How Appealing (of course)

The Yin Blog (of course)


Notes from the Legal Underground

The Volokh Conspiracy

Ernie the Attorney


ScotUS Blog

Instapundit (Yes, I know technically it's not a legal blog, but I figure Glenn Reynolds knows a whole lot more about the law than I do, and it generally shows.)


Guess it's time I updated my blogrolls, huh?

BBTW (is that an acronym?)

I think that's my first official non-Iowa blogroll entry?? Way cool.

I noticed this letter to the editor in Monday's Press Citizen, written by Martin A. Diaz, a self-proclaimed "thriving personal injury lawyer" in Iowa City, who according to his website, specializes in, among other things, medical malpractice cases. Key quote:

"I was pleased to see that area doctors thought it important to use the jury system to vindicate their rights against SecureCare. The jury system should be available to all people in this community, not just those who can afford it.

Having now used the jury system to vindicate their loss caused by the negligence of others, I trust that these doctors will now support the rights of their patients, as well as others, to use the jury system to vindicate the rights of those affected by the negligent conduct of others."

This morning, I read an editorial in the Des Moines Register, from the same set of talking points:

"Now that doctors from the Iowa City area have won a $2.35 million settlement from a health insurer, the Iowa Trial Lawyers have jumped at the chance to ask: If doctors are using the courts when they're wronged, why shouldn't their patients be able to do the same?

"If it's OK for [doctors] to file unfettered lawsuits when they are injured by incompetent insurance providers, how can they possibly justify shackling the rights of patients who are injured by medical incompetence?"

They have a point. Doctors have been the spokespeople advocating for capping damage awards on malpractice lawsuits, even though there is no evidence that would do anything to control the cost of their malpractice insurance. Blaming trial lawyers has become routine, and is easier than dealing with the underlying problems of malpractice and skyrocketing health-care costs."

Some interesting coincidences, particularly given that neither paper ran the story about the original $2.35 settlement (not a jury trial, as implied by the repeated use of the "jury system" phrase).

Two things about this, other than the serendipitous timing and phrasing of the articles, annoy me:

1) According to an article in the Quad City Times, which according to this Google search appears to be the only Iowa news source other than WHO TV who reported on the settlement itself, the source of the conflict was that the insurer was undercharging insureds for their medical premiums:

"The doctors, associated with Mercy of Iowa City Regional Hospital Organization, filed a lawsuit against SecureCare of Iowa three years ago in Johnson County District Court. The lawsuit says SecureCare underpriced health care premiums to area employers. . . The physician group entered a 10-year contract with SecureCare in 1996, under which the physicians were to provide health care to employees of area companies. The doctors canceled the contract in 2001 because SecureCare failed to price premiums accurately."

While the charging of premiums is somewhat statistically driven and not an exact science, we are still talking about known sums here. The insurers know what health care costs are likely to be, how many people are statistically likely to get sick with what diseases, and are supposed to charge premiums accordingly. Failure to do so means they ignored some portion of the equation in order to make money. The suit may have been couched in terms of negligence, I don't have that information. But the wrong essentially being addressed is more similar to a contract dispute than a tort - failure to live up to a promise, rather than a mistake that hurt another person. (I'm not dealing with the wilfullness aspect, which could appear both in tort and in contract).

2) My most major gripe lies in the issue of damages. If the insurer failed to charge correct premium, it is a fairly simple calculation - for those mathematically oriented - to determine what premium should have been charged and determine a known sum of damages. But the big beef in tort reform has never been about known damages, as demonstrated by this earlier Des Moines Register article on the tort reform bill:

"Vilsack, former president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, has made clear that he opposes efforts to limit legal awards for "pain and suffering" caused by medical malpractice."

Ask any person advocating tort reform whether they believe that an injured party should not be given reasonably related medical bills. They'll not dispute that point. I don't know anyone who does. The issue is always the intangible damages, the punitive damages, the 'what are we going to do to punish this person for their mistake, and how much money would you pay to live with this bad back/headache/amputated foot/emotional distress for the rest of your life' type of damages. This is where the hot coffee verdicts stem from.

It is disingenuous at best to try to draw a comparison between the settlement and tort reform. It's like saying if I brought charges against a burglar in my home, I shouldn't question the "constitutional right" of the plaintiff's bar to bring class action suits against restaurants for causing obesity, or support the removal of wooden toys in playgrounds because - horrors - some kids get hurt when they play, or the right to "embarassment and emotional distress" damages by a woman who intentionally walks into a fountain full of bubbles and is shocked - shocked, I tell you - when she slips and cuts her leg.

As I've blogged earlier here and here, I'm not so sure Iowa needs tort reform. As a whole, we've got a history of returning fairly sensible verdicts and we've got juries that tend to know the value of a dollar. My 2¢ worth of a solution was a compromise:

"Perhaps try something in line with the US Supreme Court’s rulings on punitive damages, where the test is whether or not the damages are in proportion to the tangible damages incurred. Perhaps in the five to ten multiplier range? For example, a claimant who has $5000 in lost wages and medical bills, he or she would be capped at a multiplier of, say, seven times that amount, or $35,000 in past or future “pain and suffering” intangible damages. That would leave in the flexibility for those who are very severely injured in a very egregious manner to obtain the larger awards, while setting a reasonable cap that would track with jury trends in the past."

That said, I hate public relations attempts masked as honest news stories. Let the trial lawyers write letters to the editor. They've got a vested interest in protecting their income. But don't copy their talking points and pass it off as a news editorial, particularly when the position taken is an inaccurate one.

Monday, September 27, 2004


My show's details:

Show Details

New Play Festival!

When: September 30, 2004 through October 3, 2004

8:00 PM each night

Where: Stephen Arnold Circle Studio Theatre, 213 E. 10th Street, Coralville, Iowa

Season: 2004-2005

Tickets: Call 248-1750 for ticket options

Sponsor: City Circle Acting Company

Authors: Various

Director: Chris Okiishi, various

New Play Festival!

In an effort to highlight even more of our local artists, we are opening our Studio for an evening of short new works, written by Coralville and other eastern Iowa writers, in what we hope will be an annual tradition.

NOTE: There are six original works, nicely mixed between comedy and drama. These are all local authors, directors, and actors. The pieces are short, about ten minutes apiece, and are generally concise and very, very good. Trivia: I play: a seductive internet date with an agenda, a freaky secretary, a wife/mother facing an intense personal crisis, and a plaintiff's attorney interviewing a very unique client.

I got this email from Brian Gilbert at City Circle:

"Last night Sue and I got out to see ICCT's Opening of Little Shop of Horrors. What a treat! The show was terrific, strong points all around. The music was wonderful, the voices and acting strong. Lights, sound, costumes, and puppetry were all great.

And, there are some familiar faces from past Circle shows. I recommend you catch this one. It runs three weekends."

It should be great, these guys have been working their collective behinds off for weeks now. The info:

Come visit Iowa City Community Theatre's "Little Shop of Horrors," the darkly hilarious musical that became the off-Broadway hit of the 1980's. Loosely adapted from Roger Corman's infamous 1960 B-grade cult classic bearing the same name, "Little Shop of Horrors" blends the big musical and the cheesy science fiction flick into one huge campy blast of fun. Seymour Krelborn is a nerdy floral assistant who lives in the basement of Mushnik's Flower Shop and pines after his blonde-bimbo co-worker, Audrey. After a total eclipse of the sun, Seymour discovers a strange new exotic plant, which feeds only on fresh blood. Seymour slices his fingers to feed "Audrey II," who rewards him by making Seymour a minor celebrity as the plant becomes the talk of the city and Mushnik's Flower Shop is flooded with customers. But Seymour soon finds he can't keep up with Audrey II's voracious appetite.

Director Jeff Shields, who showed himself to be the mast er of campy, over-the-top humor with last season's production of Father of the Bride, lends a grand, hilarious, firmly tongue-in-cheek touch to this classic sci-fi spoof. Meanwhile, Musical Director Thomas Stirling grants his considerable talent to a stunning score composed by the songwriting team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who redefined the animated musical film with Disney's The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast, and Aladdin. The music crosses Broadway production numbers with Motown tunes to create an inspired production with lyrics saturated in humor and in-jokes.

Performances of Little Shop of Horrors are scheduled for September 24, 25, and 26, and October 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, and 10. Don't miss out on the opportunity to see this production of one of the longest-running Off-Broadway shows of all time. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8:00 pm with doors opening at 7:00. Sunday performances begin at 2:30 pm with doors opening at 1:30.

Tickets for adults are $14 for evening performances, $13 for matinees. Students and seniors pay $12 for evening performances and $11 for matinees. Kindergarten through Sixth Grade students pay $6. For tickets, call the ICCT Box Office at 1-319-338-0443, or visit J. Hall Keyboards or the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center. Group rates are also available. Visit the ICCT Web site at for additional information.

Meanwhile, both Paula Grady and Annette Rohlk (starred in Rosenstrasse with me) are in the Moongarden Acting Company production of Mamet's A Boston Marriage. The info:

BOSTON Marriage

by David Mamet

Directed by Rachael Lindhart


Paula Grady

Lisa Blouin

Annette Rohlk

Friday, October 1 8 pm

Saturday, October 2 8 pm

Saturday, October 9 8 pm

Sunday, October 10 7 pm

The Galleries Downtown

218 E. Washington St.

Iowa City

Tickets $10 at the Gallery

in advance or at the door


or respond to this email:

"Devastatingly funny...

exceptionally clever...

[Mamet] demonsrates anew

his technical virtuosity and flexibility."

-The New York Times

Anna and Claire are two bantering, scheming "women of fashion" who have long lived together on the fringes of upper-class Victorian society. Between exchanging witty barbs with each other, they take turns taunting Anna's hapless Scottish maid. To this wickedly funny comedy, Mamet brings his trademark tart dialogue and impeccable plotting, spiced with Wildean wit.

I don't know how kid-friendly this one is, as Mamet is generally not G-rated.

Because I'm in City Circle's New Play Festival this weekend, I intend to go to Little Shop next Saturday (I'm ushering) and Boston Marriage on Sunday.

Riverside Theater is still running "Boy Gets Girl,"by Rebecca Gilman and directed by Michael Sokoloff: "Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Boy gets dangerous. Part thriller, part social commentary, University of Iowa alum Rebecca Gilman has written an unflinching and unsentimental portrait of a life irrevocably altered by a stalker. A Time Magazine #1 play of the year! Contains adult language."

There's a lot to choose from these next two weekends, depending on your taste. It's nice to have support for so much local talent.

A few things from last week I didn't get to blog on before leaving town for the Iowa Defense Counsel Association's annual meeting:

Battle of the Survivors via How Appealing. Did they really think the public would confuse the two? I can see the plotline now: six aging rock stars of the 80's are deliberately stranded in a deserted locale . . .

Another thought on how to get rid of those pesky student loans, again via How Appealing. Maybe not the best of ideas.

This article in the Des Moines Register regarding Judge Neary, the "lesbian divorce" judge. He got extremely high competency marks from the bar. The quote from the people behind his removal effort shows their ignorance on the whole subject: "Historically, lawyers publicly show support for all judges," Alons said. "It's not a good employment move to challenge the person who is going to make that ruling you live and breathe for." Okay, these are confidential, anonymous put-a-number-by-the-name surveys that have no way to be traced back to any given attorney. Supposing for a moment that the judge got radically failing marks from the bar. That means most attorneys failed him, but he won't know specifically who. Now he's got to give a ruling in a case. One side's going to win and one will lose. He's in a vindictive mood given the survey, but it's likely both lawyers voted him down. How's he supposed to "get back" at both the lawyers simultaneously? Not issue a ruling at all? Issue one so unintelligible that no one knows who wins? By the way, I'm against the removal, for what it's worth. From what I've seen of the case, Judge Neary was not trying to be an "activist." Because he's a trial court judge, his rulings aren't even published, for crying out loud. That means he can't set a precedent to bind another court. He can't 'make law' in that sense. So to try to remove him on that basis is simply silly.

State 29 blogs about bias in the media, and suggests they simply state any bias and be done with it. My 2 cents: It's impossible not to be biased. It can't be done. The angle you take on a story, choosing one adjective or adverb over another to describe the scene, the amount of space you devote to one item or another, these will all eventually color the story in some fashion. If you attempt to remove all bias, you can easily end up with a colorless story that can't possibly describe the event being reported upon. Could you imagine a 9-11 story that carefully avoided any mention of the words "tragedy," "horrible," "chaos," "destruction," etc.? If such a story could be written in flat, sterile rhetoric, would it really be reporting? Why don't the media simply acknowledge that all media is biased, despite the best efforts to tell all sides of a story? They could add a caveat that we should all try to balance our news sources, in an attempt to move past our own biases for a three-dimensional view of any given event?

"The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice." Mark Twain

Other trivia:

The conference went well. I was a featured speaker for 8:00 am Friday morning and managed not to look like a total idiot despite the fact it was far too early to be thinking completely coherently. I saw Rich Webster's band on Friday night, and they put on a great show. Rich is an attorney in the Des Moines area, if you ever need a lawyer who can really carry a tune.

Space Monkey Leader gave me an honorable mention in his "mother of all fiskings" award for my earlier post on a silly article about the presence women in professions. If I don't convince you, I'll exhaust you into submission. . .

Went to rehearsal Sunday night for the New Play Festival at City Circle. I'm in four out of six. Yep, four. Got my lines down for three of them. We open Thursday. Yikes.

Royce Dunbar of an Iowa Libertarian has a part in the StageWest production of "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?" Break a leg, Royce. Space Monkey Leader asks if he's the only Iowa blogger not involved in theater. Me, Greenman, Royce, Brent from CopTalk teetering on the edge, Mathman is thinking it sounds like fun . . . Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Finally, Professor Yin has an awesome idea for applying sports rules to appellate arguments.
This week's NY Times Magazine also has a very extensive article on political blogging. (Reg required - try "Randommentality" and "password").
William Safire has an op-ed in the NY Times today entitled "The Kidnap Weapon". (Registration required, if not signed up use "Randommentality" and "password").

But responsible journalists should consider the wisdom of allowing media-savvy terrorists to play them like a violin.

"Sensationalism sells; on TV, "if it bleeds, it leads." Audiences are surely drawn to tearful interviews with worried spouses and children. Bloggers get "hits" from posting the most gruesome pictures. Cable ratings rise by milking the pathos in the drama created by the Zarqawi network: first comes the kidnapping report; then televised pleas from the kneeling, doomed innocents; then coverage of marches and vigils to plead for the payment of ransom; finally, in one case out of four, the delivery of dismembered bodies and gleeful claim of blame. . . .

We know that the primary purpose of the kidnap weapon is to drive the coalition forces out of Iraq and to prevent a free election there. We know, too, that the kidnap weapon is aimed at the U.S. election. . . .

Nonpartisan media's response should be to report the events conscious of manipulation and not to overlook the reaction of Iraqi and worldwide Muslim disgust."

Possibly a very timely piece, considering Yahoo has just reported that a CNN producer has been seized by armed men in Gaza.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

And in case you missed it, Iowa Hawk had a cool post on the CBS memogate.
Another reason the plaintiff's bar seriously annoys me.
State 29 and Jeff from Tusk and Talon have new posts up on the Iowa Porkforest: the only weblog exclusively devoted to the fake rainforest in Coralville, Iowa. Or as I like to call it, the "giant foil-covered caterpillar."
****Really Freaking Long Post Alert****

Royce Dunbar of An Iowa Libertarian blogs on "Unintended consequences of Women's Rights." I do agree that there is fallout from the women's movement that was not necessarily intended by the protagonists. I do not agree with the premise of the Tech Central Station article Royce cites, What Women Want by Val MacQueen, and I can't resist a little fisking(rolls up sleeves):

"A high-ranking British woman doctor, Professor Carol Black, president of the Royal College of Physicians, has warned that the British medical profession is shedding the prestige in which it was once held. She ascribes the diminution of respect to the high percentage of women who have entered the profession over the past 20 years."

Indeed, she is right to be concerned.

Consider teaching. Fifty years ago, when most teachers were male, teaching was accorded the status of 'profession.' Now, with the great majority of teachers in Britain and Europe being women, teaching has seen its prestige plummet to the point where it is regarded as just another unionized job with pay and holiday issues."

And back I was young 'un still in that there one-room schoolhouse, I tell ya, we knew what troubles was. I walked clear 'bout five miles each and every day. Barefoot through the snow sometimes. Uphill. Both ways.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Actually, I had a pink coat and little white go-go boots, and I whined the whole ten minutes it took to walk to school. It was the seventies.

To get back to the point, I see nothing here to support the premise that educators are respected less in modern times, other than that general "remember back in the good old days" cliche. The author may perceive a general decrease in respect for the profession, but that doesn't mean there is one. We all remember "the good old days" cliché. Of course, the older people get the more likely they are to feel the current generation is going to hell in a handbasket. Yet, somehow, the world keeps turning.

"Again, since British women flooded into the legal profession, especially as solicitors (essentially, non-trial lawyers) the law too has seen its score marked "diminuendo"."

Hey now. First off, I don't know that attorneys have ever gotten that much respect as a whole. "First, kill all the lawyers" ring a bell? But I strongly object to the current anti-lawyer sentiment being laid at the feet of the female attorneys, for reasons I will address later. Again, it's the author's perception being passed off as truth here. I can agree that the person authoring the article does believe that teachers and lawyers are not highly regarded because of all those darn females. That does not mean it is truth.

"The Anglican Church has allowed itself to become sidelined to the point of irrelevance -- although to be fair, this is partly due to its adopting a loony left stance on most critical issues of the day. Nevertheless, the decision to admit women as vicars has diminished the Church's spiritual authority and shepherded it into an "issues oriented" profession rather than that of a provider of spiritual comfort and moral certainties.

People perceive women as anchored to issues as opposed to concepts. I recall seeing an interview with one woman who voiced dissatisfaction with her Anglican vicar, who was a woman. The woman complained, 'I was spiritually troubled. I was trying to find my faith again, and the vicar kept drawing the conversation back to the lack of adequate childcare facilities in the parish.'"

Data! Well, of a sort. Is it possible that there is a really insipid female Anglican vicar in Britain? I'd say it's a statistical certainty. Does that mean we can extrapolate that all female vicars are insipid, or that none of the male vicars are? Not so much. Anecdotal evidence does not proof make.

"Politics, too, once surely the most ruthless profession of them all, has seen the regard in which it was previously held, albeit always with a healthy skepticism in the Anglosphere, diminish since large numbers of British and European women chose politics as a career. Think Swedish female politicians, and now think how seriously you take Swedish politics."

D*mn those Swedes anyway. Teethy The article goes on to add policework to the list, indicating that law enforcement has gone soft, turned into pseudo-social workers by the increased estrogen in the department.

Conceding - only for the point of argument - that the correlation between an increasing female presence in these professions and the author's perceived decline in their 'respectability' indicates a causal relationship between the two, which again I don't see any hard data for, I don't know that it means there was a problem with putting women in the profession in the first place.

White flight is often a problem in integrated neighborhoods as the perceived property values diminish, does that call for a return to segregation and the Jim Crow laws?

"So, jobs that have always had a high female presence -- real estate, sales, journalism, advertising, literary and performer agencies -- racket along as ever with nary a change in public perceptions. (Be it noted that although these are all jobs that require mental agility and an ability to capture a fleeting mood, they do not require years of rigorous study and grinding apprenticeship.) The professions whose corpus is still largely male -- architecture, nuclear physics, orchestra conducting, rocket science (indeed, all science) maintain their status and mystique."

Orchestra conducting? Seriously?

Rocket science I can grant you. Architects? When's the last time you really respected a good architect, gave 'em some props? Mike Brady?

Okay, I'm reaallly digressing now.

"Dr. Black told London's Observer newspaper that female-dominated professions such as teaching no longer see themselves as "powerful" and pointed to the danger of feminizing medicine because they have been persuaded to make special dispensations for women and mothers.

I think that Dr. Black hit the nail on the head when she added that 'women were unlikely to take top jobs, such as the dean of a medical school, because of the difficulties combining them with family life.' She added that many women avoided more "demanding" areas such as cardiology. 'What worries me is who is going to be the professor of cardiology in the future? Where are we going to find the leaders of British medicine in 20 years' time?'"

Leaders of British medicine, or female leaders of British medicine? If I can take Dr. Black's word that all female British doctors are slack-offs, I presume the guys will welcome the lack of competition for the top slots in cardiology. Women would settle into the bottom rungs of the profession, and life would go on.

And as for that "no longer see themselves as powerful" thing, it makes it sounds like cardiologists everywhere are now suffering from a vast inferiority complex because they have to play nicely with the girls.

"Well may she ask, because as long as women insist on maintaining a dual role and manipulating their chosen professions to suit their family life, men will be less attracted to the field and the women who are in it will not make the sacrifices that males routinely make to establish a name for themselves and uphold the standards of their profession. In the British and European health systems, there are few top women consultants in any field except pediatrics. They don't seem to have the stamina or the mental rigor to become surgeons. Or perhaps they don't have the will. A 12-hour operation would interfere with their home life."

Omigod, we don't, like, have the brains to be a surgeon, ya know?

It's in the whole double-x chromosome thing, is that it? We're just not as smart?

Or we don't have a lot of "stamina" (though I actually hear that phrase applied a whole lot more to men).

So if that's the case, why worry? If the women are destined to loiter on the bottom rungs of a profession, what's the big whoop? They'll stay in pediatrics and "bring down the prestige" of that profession, while you hot-shot guys can feel powerful in surgery or cardiology.

"And women are increasingly trivializing the rigors of the professions by manipulating them to suit their family life by agitating for shorter working hours so they can be at home when the children come back from school, maternity breaks without loss of position on the rung, and extra time off for school events, and so on. The British Parliament, under touchy-feely Tony Blair, recently introduced shorter working hours in Parliament specifically so female legislators could be at home for supper with their children. No one asked why these Labour politicians went into politics knowing how unsuitable the hours are for family life. Under Labour, Parliament had to be massaged to suit young mothers. This is no way to run a country."

So straighten up and fly right, d*mn it.

Okay, first off: I do believe that any essential job requirement should remain untouched by the fact women can enter a profession. For example, I disagree with modifying any strength test for firefighters, as carrying ladders and hoses of a certain weight up and down stairs and such is inherently part of the job. On the other hand, if you try to instill those requirements for me as a lawyer, I'll sue your behind. It's not reasonably related to the job.

So with the long hours: if they can accommodate and the employer is willing, why not? Is there any law that work must be done in the office between certain set times? I'm not saying that one who pulls less weight at the office should be paid equally. But if someone wants to put in three-quarter time and get paid accordingly, does that really degenerate the profession as a whole?

It is male aggression that built civilizations and furthered the sciences, not women sitting around forming cooperatives and sharing childcare.

The women who rise to the top of demanding professions, rather than drifting comfortably along the slipstream at the bottom, do so in spite of their sex, and because they possess some of the male characteristics that infuse a discussion with certainty and confidence.

Yes: if I have any confidence, if I'm aggressive in my arguments, or have any ambition, it's because I've got some secret Y chromosome stashed away in my attic somewhere and every now and again I take a little hit. In between times, I suck on testosterone lollipops. It couldn't be an inherent part of my personality. I'm a chick, after all. Can you trot out anymore worn stereotypes for me?

To return to the issue of women lawyers and the current lack of respect for attorneys. It is my perception, not based on any data (but that didn't stop the author), that attorneys are reviled not for their feminine congeniality or general "let's all get along" attitude. If attorneys are looked down on, it is because they are perceived as vicious mental whores who are willing sell their legal expertise to the highest bidder even in the most morally reprehensible cases, and to file slimy briefs filled with half-truths and innuendo. If this is the general stereotype of the legal "shark," wouldn't a touch of feminizing actually raise the opinion of the profession?

Margaret Thatcher, although many men found her very attractive as a woman, has a mind with qualities commonly thought of as masculine. In debate, she gave no quarter and asked none. It is interesting that she holds a degree not just in law, but in chemistry as well. There are other ambitious and brilliant women in Britain who possess clarity of thought and vision, who have made sacrifices to achieve their positions and are well rewarded. But by and large, they are not in the professions. Or if they are lawyers, they aren't practicing but deploy the skills they developed in law elsewhere.

Ah, Margie. The exception that proves the rule. I wondered when we were going to get down to her.

Contrast with the namby-pamby modern day lawyers that are "by and large" not in "the professions" or in law.


I thought one of the founding premises of the article is that they are in law, in vast quantitites, and that this enormous female presence is diminishing respect for the legal profession exponentially???

D*mn that logic thing, anyway.

"In socialist Britain and socialist Europe today, there is a conscious demasculization under way. All those wars: bad. All those hours spent away from the family dinner table building fortunes or careers: bad. All that deferring to rank: bad. Ruthlessness: bad. Inclusion, cooperation, "understanding": good. Good for what? Who knows?"

I agree there's a general tendency to question whether a war is worthwhile. But most can agree that there are some good wars (WWII is the perennial favorite). But I propose that while the traits above are stereotypically feminine, they are actually being proposed by men and women, generally from the perceived "left." But depending on the rhetoric used, these are not necessarily negative traits. "Deferring to rank" sounds wonderful until we talk about the unwarranted abuse of prisoners. (Note I said unwarranted. I don't believe in making them all that comfortable, either.) Ruthlessness? I don't know I'd call that a good thing. Strength of character, yes, but not ruthlessness. And cooperation can be good for some things, you know. Most of us learned that in kindergarten.

None of this is new. It isn't often addressed because in countries infected with radical socialism, it is simply too incendiary. Men want to compete. Women want to cooperate. Or so runs contemporary received wisdom. This may not be true. It might be that, once the feminists announced that the professions weren't "caring" enough, the type of woman given to weaving mental macramé was drawn to demand her rights and shove her way in. Certainly the early, and rare, female doctors and lawyers in the early part of the last century were as focused and determined as any man.

I wondered how that was going to tie in. The author paints a picture of all women being weak, then cites strong women, then excuses that as being an anomaly, a 'masculine' female. Kind of like having most female lawyers outside the law, yet enough of them in the law to bring down the testosterone quotient. Makes you wonder if every female in the UK is a lawyer. Could explain some things.

I am left with this burning question: am I the "type of woman given to weaving mental macramé?"

"In my opinion, this deconsecrating of the professions is a socialist, rather than a feminist, construct. The feminists were handy fodder. There is a disconcerting leveling down in Britain and much of Europe today. Excellence is derided for "excluding" those who are not excellent. If further proof were needed that this is an exercise in class warfare, as medical science, in the fields of both knowledge and new treatment, expands at a formidable rate, Labour is currently hacking away at the profession by reducing the length and thoroughness of British medical education to make it "more inclusive".

A reasonable question might be, will the profession continue to prosper although males desert it?

Another reasonable question might be, why is it American women have entered the professions at the same rate, and are not only doing well in many fields and excelling in some, but doing so by accepting the same sacrifices that men make and playing by the same rules?

The fact is, whether it is a deliberate leveling down policy or simply a social evolution, once women predominate in a profession, that profession loses its attraction for clever men. Will we see the social status of medicine in Europe sink to the same level as that of teachers?

Well, it did in the USSR."

I see, it's all the socialists' fault. And the Russians. D*mn them. The Swedes, too.

I note that American women are exempted from the article, almost as an afterthought. But wait, aren't we hearing about the same trends over here? I don't think the distinction is valid.

Then again, I really don't know - there's still NO DATA provided to back up any of this stereotypical rant.

My repeated point is a simple one I learned in preschool: who says?

Who says an architect is respected but a police officer is not? Who says any lack of respect for the police stems from an increase in women police officers, rather than a general degeneration of respect for authority figures prevalent in society as a whole?

I mean, look at each of the examples cited: lawyer, politician, educator, police officer, vicar. See anything in common? Could it be that each of these is a figure of authority over our lives in some way shape or form? Whereas the architect . . . not exactly. Could that be why the vicar is disdained but the architect (I still can't believe that's the example given) is presumably, at least in the author's mind, revered.

As for the "It is male aggression that built civilizations and furthered the sciences, not women sitting around forming cooperatives and sharing childcare" quote, I have three comments:

1) It is possible that the "male aggression" wouldn't be possible without the female "cooperatives." Otherwise, who was doing the childcare, farming the farms, sewing the uniforms?

2) Elizabeth I, Marie Curie, Mary Leakey, Golda Meir, Queen Victoria, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth Blackwell.

3) It is also possible that "male aggression" ensured it was men who built civilizations, by enacting laws prohibiting women from holding property and going out in public, much less participating in most of these traditional male professions. Who knows what other names I could have added to #2 if those laws had not been in place and physically enforced? I don't generally like pulling the "privileged white male" card, because I don't feel today's men should be judged by these stereotypes. They weren't around when it happened, and it's not their fault. But then, neither should I be judged by the women of the past. Should I?

Having thoroughly vented, I throw this open for comments and alternate theories.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Yin Blog has a great post up on WMD's in Iraq. Key quote:

"I would say that the fault with the war lies with both the U.S. and Continental Europe. Neither Bush nor Chirac/Schroeder/Putin had interest in the kind of inspections regime that would have been necessary to address the reality. Bush wanted to oust Saddam, and Continental Europe wanted to return to 1990 (pre-Kuwait invasion). Neither position, as it turns out, was the best option.

Hopefully both sides (those who supported the war and those who opposed it) can learn from this report. Unfortunately, the misleading headline above may lead people to draw only the one conclusion, and not the other."

I utterly agree. On one hand, Europe invested their trust in the original, lackadaisical approach to inspections, with the Iraqis being warned ahead of time where inspections were likely to occur and able to cordon off entire areas. Of course Saddam would've built up his WMD's the moment the world wasn't watching. I think about everyone agrees on that. I firmly believe that the inspections as they were being staged weren't enough to keep that from happening. On the other hand, war wasn't the only solution yet we went straight there without some intermediary steps. Perhaps the diplomacy failure was not with Iraq and the other Arab nations, but with Europe?
Personal update:

We closed Metamorphoses this weekend, and I'm really bummed it's over. We had a cast party on Friday night, and I'm glad I decided to stick to my two-drink pre-wedding minimum because dang those Chicago guys know how to make a wicked Cosmopolitan. Three would've completely knocked my on my posterior.

The wedding went off just fine (I'd have said without a hitch, but technically . . . ). Mom was able to get her party face on and everyone had a good time for a while. My brothers managed to make several rooms full of toys disappear from my nephew's birthay the day before, and had everything dusted and vaccuumed for her. I didn't know they had the skills. (Just kidding, guys). When life is so nasty, you've just got to take the good moments where you can find them. I could almost forget everything that was going on for a while. Then she tried to get up and couldn't, and was trying so hard to explain why she couldn't go to my play (which I completely understood and did NOT expect her to go), and so perspective returned. It's hard thinking she'll never get to see me in another.


On to the next crisis. I'll have to check my giant sh*t dayrunner. By the way, thanks so much for all the kind comments, everyone. I'm just venting a bit in writing so I can stay more off these topics in person, and perhaps be a little less whiny.
I threw a few cast photos up below the lineup. It was such a beautiful play, I had a hard time choosing, so please forgive the load time and enjoy the pretty pictures.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The three political headlines I saw on Yahoo today:

Politics News from AP Sep 16 8:15pm PT

Bush, Kerry Disagree on Handling of Iraq

Bush: Kerry Wants to Expand Government

Kerry: Bush Not Being Straight About Iraq

No sh*t?

Glad I have the AP to tell me that.
***NOTE: Personal Aside. Skip this if you want political, legal, or other public news.****


Consider that my silent scream. A personal update:

My mom's health is deteriorating more rapidly than predicted. It's depressing, to say the least, and I cope by blatantly ignoring the situation for days, which I intersperse with 15 minute outbursts of furious anger or paralyzing pain when I flash on having to look at her in a coffin, or all the things in my life that she's never going to see, or how the h*ll we're going to explain this to Michael and Daniel, my two and four-year-old nephews. Only about four of those outbursts so far in the past three weeks, so I'm either doing very well or bucking for the title of "Queen of Denial." I suspect the latter.

The family is also in some serious financial difficulties, and I'm throwing credit cards right and left. At least I've got the years left to dig myself out of this hole, but I really don't want to know how deep it's going to be before it's all over. It could multiply my outbursts exponentially.

My sister wants to tie the knot with her long-term fiance while my mom is still around. She told me last week that she needs an officiant, rings, flowers and a dress - for this Saturday. Of course, I also have Metamorphoses going on this weekend, so that should be interesting. My aunt bought the dress. She's wearing my mom's old ring, which Mom hasn't worn in years. I've found the officiant and am funding the flowers and his ring. Again with the credit cards. *Sigh*. NOTE: she'll eventually pay me back, though.

We interrupt this b*tch session for an alert from the Family Emergency Broadcast System (insert appropriate annonying noise): they applied for the license on Monday or Tuesday. I just got a call from Judge Grady (Paula's husband, the one who was in Rosenstrasse and Allergist's Wife with me. He's kindly agreed to drive down from CR to do the ceremony on VERY short notice.) Anyway, if they don't pick up the license today, they can't get married Saturday because the courthouse is closed Friday. The courthouse closes in exactly one hour. I told him they had the license, but then thought: they told me when they applied for it. They never updated me when the picked it up. What if they think they have tomorrow to do so? Left a message for her on her machine. Damn machines. She's out. No cell. Oh well, not my problem. Right???????

This morning I had an email conversation with the ex. Our divorce pretrial conference is Tuesday. I've been drawing up the papers myself, to save the expense of a lawyer. I've not been able to get together the final order and other fun documents for signing because we can't sell the dang house, so I'm going to need to get the hearing continued. In theory, we could split up the debts, so our separate ways, and each get half the house proceeds when it sells. But being the one with the income in the past means I'm the primary cardholder on most of the debts, and he doesn't have enough credit available to take half our joint debts (not including my loans to my family, which I'm keeping track of and will be mine) into his own name. So we'd still be tied together with the invisible bond of joint accounts. Lovely. I need to put my brain to work to figure out a way out of this one. As soon as I find it . . .

I’m told both my grandmothers are also in and out of the hospital these days, one with emphysema and the other with congenital heart failure. I’m told the situation is grim, though not an impending emergency. I’m told this because I haven’t actually gone to Chicago to find out. Denial can be a beautiful thing. My sense of black humor wants to tell my karma secretary/guardian angel to be sure to pencil in the next medical emergency in my giant sh*t dayrunner in the sky, because it would be a shame to double or triple book these things.

Wednesday I leave to give a speech on toxic mold to about 400 defense attorneys. I've not even started my power point yet. It's due tomorrow. I’ll get to it then - we're flooded with new suits, fires to put out. I try to keep my temper when I’m told about all the horrific emotional scarring stemming from a 2 MPH rear-end collision (don’t bumper cars go faster than that?). I really do try, and it’s working so far. Note to opposing counsel: I can’t vouch for the future. Consider yourself warned.

Miscellaneous: I've had a nasty cold for the past two or three days, and it's really pissing me off. Taking Echinacea, Vitamin C, and popping cold capsules like M&M’s. I just found out I was $15 short on my Client Security Fund check earlier this year, and I've got to get it in the mail or they'll yank my license. Don't ask about the love life, the aforementioned divorce is the only thing in the works. He's having much better luck, from what I'm told. I feel like apologizing to people I meet these days, explaining that I’m not usually this absent-minded, distant, or just plain crazy. But isn’t the urge to explain your non-craziness an accepted symptom of insanity? So I refrain.

Actually, I can't think of one aspect of my life that's not entirely screwed at the moment. Is there no end to the vast sewage pile? Oh yeah. I threw a cool cast party, I'm a passable actress, and I can look fairly decorative in an evening gown: come see Metamorphoses, my sole shining example of not-f*cked-upness, before it closes this Sunday.

Our first special event show will be Metamorphoses, a modern adaptation of Ovid’s Greek myths by Chicago artist Mary Zimmerman, directed by Chris Okiishi.
Not only are these timeless stories retold with contemporary wit and classical grace, but this production promises a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience, for each of the stories, in whole or in part, is set in the brand new walk-in pool in the forthcoming Coralville Aquatic Center.

Gods and mortals will swim and drown, sea battles will be waged and lost, and more than one audience member will get splashed a bit in the process. Towels will be provided for the first two rows!

Runs September 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19. All shows at 8:00 pm.
Where: City of Coralville Aquatic Center, across from City Hall
Season: 2004-2005
Tickets: Call 248-1750 for ticket options
Sponsor: City Circle Acting Company
Authors: Mary Zimmerman
Director: Chris Okiishi

Premiered in New York City by The Second Stage Theatre, New York, September 2001. Artistic Director: Carole Rotheman Managing Director: Carol Fishman Executive Director: Alexander Fraser METAMORPHOSES was origionally produced by Lookingglass Theatre Company, Chicago.

OVIDS METAMORPHOSES translated by David Slavitt, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. Rainer Maria Rilkes Poem ORPHEUS, EURYDICE, HERMES. Translated by Stephen Mitchell, 1995 Modern Library.

(Yes, I do know things could be a lot worse, say if I lived in Afghanistan or Iraq. I'm just venting. Please excuse the raving lunatic in this corner of the blogosphere and carry on with the latest war/political/philosophical debates.)

UPDATE: Family Emergency Broadcast System signals the end of the emergency warning. She's got the license in hand.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Photos of Glengarry Glen Ross are up on the Dreamwell site! I hear the guys are doing a really good job.
Roundup on the CBS Memos, or "Rathergate:"

The CBS / big media initial response:

"I know that this story is true. I believe that the witnesses and the documents are authentic. We wouldn't have gone to air if they would not have been. There isn't going to be -- there's no -- what you're saying apology? . . . Not even discussed, nor should it be. I want to make clear to you, I want to make clear to you if I have not made clear to you, that this story is true, and that more important questions than how we got the story, which is where those who don't like the story like to put the emphasis, the more important question is what are the answers to the questions raised in the story, which I just gave you earlier." Dan Rather, in a CNN interview on 09/10/04/, transcript via the Drudge Report.

"The fear I have is: How do you know who's doing the Web logs?

"And what happens when this stuff gets into the mainstream, and it eventually turns out that the '60 Minutes' documents were perfectly legitimate, but because there's been so much reporting about what's being reported, it has already taken on a life of its own?" - Jeffrey Seglin, a professor at Emerson College in Boston, quoted in theLos Angeles Times

"JUST CAUGHT Jonathan Klein debating Stephen Hayes about the CBS forgery scandal. Klein says that 'Bloggers have no checks and balances . . . [it's] a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas.'" - Instapundit

So far, big media simply throws darts at blogger's reputations rather than engaging in the big debate. William Safire puts a great op-ed in the NY Times warning against this approach:

"What should a responsible news organization do? To shut up sources and impugn the motives of serious critics - from opinionated bloggers to straight journalists - demeans the Murrow tradition. Nor is any angry demand that others prove them wrong acceptable, especially when no original documents are available to prove anything. Years ago, Kurdish friends slipped me amateur film taken of Saddam's poison-gas attack that killed thousands in Halabja. I gave it to Dan Rather, who trusted my word on sources. Despite objections from queasy colleagues, he put it on the air. Hey, Dan: On this, recognize the preponderance of doubt. Call for a panel of old CBS hands and independent editors to re-examine sources and papers. Courage."

Amen. But it was still left to alternative media to start asking the hard questions.

The Evidence for Authentication:

Daily Kos points out that the memo could concievably have been reproduced on an IBM Selectric or possibly an Executive:

"To to sum up, the original document expert the "forgery" brigades were quoting checked the document typeface with Interpol, and now believes that these documents were consistent with an IBM Selectric Composer; that the Air Force had indeed purchased such devices as early as 1969; and that typeheads were indeed available with the 'th' keys in question. (I will further point out that it appears any IBM typeface available for the Selectric was also available for the Executive, but that is a likely irrelevant detail.)"

See the details here and here.

Basically, they show that: 1) The IBM Selectric Composer had the capability of using the superscript th and a font and spacing close to if not identical to the memo. 2) The IBM Selectric machines had been purchased by the military. 3) Another model, the IBM Executive, had the capability for the font and the superscript, but possibly not the spacing. As to why Killian would've bothered typing his CYA memo-to-self on this machine, the blog links to this post by an expert on typeography and printing presses:

"It's true that some whizbangs took a couple of extra steps. People ask, Why would Killian have gone to the trouble of creating a reduced superscript "th"? But we're talking about the early 1970s here. Let's be frank -- in those dear departed times, real men did not touch typewriters. Trust me on this. It's highly probable Killian scribbled a note and gave it to one of the office "girls" to type up for his signature. The office "girls" hardly ever bothered about putting their initials on such documents, in spite of what the secretarial practice books said. But the "girl" would have typed the document very nicely."

I would've been convinced that it was possible, except for some very coherent responses.

The most persuasive is from The Shape of Days:

"The machine sold for anywhere from $3,600 to $4,400, and fonts were extra and not cheap. . . . I'm talking about $3,600 to $4,400 in unadjusted 1973 dollars here. If you use one of the widely available deflation or purchasing-power calculators, you end up with an equivalent in 2004 dollars of between about $16,000 and about $22,000. . . .

(NOTE: The Shape of Days has Gerry Kaplan, who runs the website, attempt to duplicate the memo. Go see the site, it's worth it. Shape of Days commentary continues:)

". . . pretty darned close to the original. But not close enough. The letterforms in the IBM's Press Roman typeface are very close to the letterforms in the CBS memo. Not surprising, since they're both based on the original Times New Roman font commissioned by the Times of London in 1931. But as we've seen already, different versions of the same font always exhibit subtle differences, usually in letterspacing. This case is no different. . . . Hey, what about that superscript? How'd he make it? I asked him via e-mail, and he replied:

"To make the superscripted th, I first typed "111", then switched the font to the 8pt font, switched the escapement lever to the smaller escapement (horizontal movement), reverse indexed the paper 1/2 line up, typed the "th", indexed 1/2 line down, switched the escapement lever to the wider escapement, then changed the type ball back to the 11pt font. . . ."

. . . when Gerry says he switched to the 8-point font, he's not talking about pushing a button. He had to remove the 11-point type ball from the machine and replace it with the 8-point type ball, which in a real office would involve digging in the back of a drawer to find the seldom-used thing. Creating that superscript wasn't quick or easy, and when he did it the carrier slipped and the superscript ended up offset. Unlike the perfectly formed and placed superscripts seen in the CBS memos. . . .

Another point that is very suspicious is the centered heading. This is a snap to do with fixed spacing (like courier), but the text is centered using proportional spaced text, which means that the typist had to carefully measure the text prior to typing to calculate its exact center point. . . . Each of those lines of type had to be centered by measuring it carefully, doing some math, then advancing the carrier to just the right point on the page. The margin for error would be pretty wide because type can be off by a few points in either direction and still look pretty well centered. It wouldn't be objectionable unless you went looking for it. So it wasn't necessary for Lt. Col. Killian — or his typist — to be millimeter-precise. And yet … he was. Two letterheads typed three months apart can be superimposed on each other so perfectly that no difference at all can be seen. It's the same deal as before: the red in front was superimposed over the black behind it. You just can't see the black copy because the red copy is perfectly aligned with it. These letterheads weren't centered to within a couple of points of each other. They were centered exactly the same. Three months apart. Remarkable."

Links on the Powerline lead to The Washington Post, only a few days behind the blogosphere, reporting that there are problems with CBS's attempts to authenticate the memos:

"The lead expert retained by CBS News to examine disputed memos from President Bush's former squadron commander in the National Guard said yesterday that he examined only the late officer's signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves. 'There's no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them," Marcel Matley said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. The main reason, he said, is that they are "copies" that are "far removed" from the originals.'" . . .

"'I am personally 100 percent sure that they are fake,' said Joseph M. Newcomer, author of several books on Windows programming, who worked on electronic typesetting techniques in the early 1970s. Newcomer said he had produced virtually exact replicas of the CBS documents using Microsoft Word formatting and the Times New Roman font.

Newcomer drew an analogy with an art expert trying to determine whether a painting of unknown provenance was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. 'If I was looking for a Da Vinci, I would look for characteristic brush strokes," he said. "If I found something that was painted with a modern synthetic brush, I would know that I have a forgery.'" . . .

"An ex-Guard commander, retired Col. Bobby W. Hodges, whom CBS originally cited as a key source in authenticating its documents, pointed to discrepancies in military abbreviations as evidence that the CBS memos are forgeries. The Guard, he said, never used the abbreviation "grp" for "group" or "OETR" for an officer evaluation review, as in the CBS documents. The correct terminology, he said, is "gp" and "OER."". . .

"CBS News produced a new expert, Bill Glennon, an information technology consultant. He said that IBM electric typewriters in use in 1972 could produce superscripts and proportional spacing similar to those used in the disputed documents. Any argument to the contrary is "an out-and-out lie," Glennon said in a telephone interview. But Glennon said he is not a document expert, could not vouch for the memos' authenticity and only examined them online because CBS did not give him copies when asked to visit the network's offices. "

The upshot? Everyone is now fairly sure they were a forgery. One of the op-ed contributors of the Daily Iowan believes that it is a Republican forgery promulgated by Bush to divert attention from his war record.

The blogosphere has come in ahead of the mainstream media in both content and speed, with the incredibly elaborate posts on both sides of the issue putting CBS's lame denial to shame. Come on, if Kos can put up a very coherent defense, why can't a multi-billion dollar corporation manage to do the same? Beldarblog points out that most of the "big league" blogger's credentials are actually quite impressive:

"Hugh Hewitt's understated bio on his blog reveals that he is "the host of a nationally syndicated radio show heard in more than 60 cities nationwide, and a Professor of Law at Chapman University Law School, where he teaches Constitutional Law," and that he "is a weekly columnist for The Daily Standard, the online edition of The Weekly Standard, and a weekly columnist for" . . .

John H. Hinderaker, "Hindrocket" of Power Line, is affiliated with the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Policy and is a partner in the Minneapolis law firm Faegre & Benson. His practice history includes "twenty-six years [in] a broad-based and varied commercial litigation practice. A veteran of more than 80 jury trials, he has appeared in courts in fifteen states." J.D. cum laude from Harvard; A.B. magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth — yeah, I think I've heard of those schools. . . .

Scott Johnson, Power Line's "Big Trunk," is also affiliated with Claremont, and probably doesn't wear pajamas to his day job as "an attorney and senior vice president of TCF National Bank in Minneapolis." Power Line's "Deacon" is Paul E. Mirengoff, a partner in the Washington office of mega-firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (where his partners include uber-Dems Bob Strauss and Vernon Jordan). In addition to government service in the Office of the General Counsel of the EEOC, his credential include an undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, in 1971 from Dartmouth College, and a J.D. in 1974 from Stanford Law School, where he served on the Stanford Law Review.

The Godfather of law bloggers, of course, is the InstaPundit himself, Glenn Reynolds. Again, his blog bio is pretty modest, but if you dig a bit deeper, you'll find that Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law. (Endowed professorships are a very big deal, even for a full professor at any law school.) His legal and popular-press publications list is a mile long — the top-tier law reviews in which he's published scholarly articles include Columbia, Virginia, Penn, and Wisconsin — and he has a BA from Tennessee in 1982 and a JD from Yale Law School in 1985."

It just goes on from there.

And pajama jokes abound.

"They should have asked Professor Bainbridge to provide some adult supervision. Send those guys some pajamas!" Instapundit

"Actually, I'm in sweatpants and a tanktop. But of course, it doesn't matter a jot what a fact-checker is wearing as long as his facts are correct. CBS's apparently aren't." Andrew Sullivan

"We promise to be fully clothed for our appearances tonight, but I can't vouch for the Freeper." Powerline

"Now if they change it "sitting around in Bra and Panties." some of us.....errrrr I mean some you may be in trouble." Left Coast Conservative

James Lileks

And finally, The Truth Laid Bear, Amy and Jammie Nation suggest the blogosphere start a line of blogging jammies:

"We donate the proceeds to some worthy cause; perhaps Spirit of America, Operation Give, or the latest Strengthen the Good cause, under the banner of the CBS News 'We got our asses kicked by guys in pajamas' Fund."

Hmm. Give me a nice little set of cotton tank tops and shorts, and I'm soo there.