Friday, October 29, 2004

Drina Joan Baum Denniger 1944-2004

My mother died in the middle of the night on Tuesday. I was with her, singing along with one of her favorite CD's at the time. No, it wasn't the singing that did it, though given she was a musician I'm sure it tempted her . . .

I wrote this for her on Sunday and read it to her Monday evening. I didn't think it was right for all the good stuff to be saved for a eulogy.

“My mother.” That was a line I repeated often in Rosenstrasse, as Katerina with her domineering, difficult German mother. “My mother,” I’d complain, rolling my eyes and always getting a laugh.

That’s acting. Here is truth. My mother? She gives.

She stocks everyone’s favorite foods, ready to fix them at a moment’s notice when the occasion calls. She makes me raspberry Jello when I am sick, grilled cheese or crescent rolls when I need comfort, chocolate just because. If it’s not in the house, she’ll buy it or send someone to get it. No one goes away feeling empty, no matter what time of the day or night. She uses no recipes, the only way to duplicate her food is to sit in the kitchen with a notebook and write down what she does. She has a house full of the oddest stuff. If you need anything, she’s got it or knows where to get it. She taught us to lend to others generously, a gift for all practical purposes. I call it a “semi-permanent loan from the Denniger collection,” like the museums. Last week, my sister’s new husband mentioned he always wanted to learn to play the trumpet. She sent Dad down to the basement. He emerged with one, rather old but still functional. I guess it had been my brother’s. If you dig deep enough in the closet, you can find our clothes from the seventies and early eighties. Vintage galore.

No matter how late you come in, she is always there, ready to talk. She has strong opinions and won’t hesitate to express them, yet no topic is taboo: philosophy, religion, human nature, gossip. But if you just want to vent, be warned. She finds the best in people. When they fall short, she defends them, hypothesizing about their motives and emotions in the most positive light, always ready to understand and forgive. When you want to complain, she will force you think about the person who has hurt or offended you, stretching to find an explanation for their behavior, sometimes in the most maddening way. She never gives up on anyone. She never turns people away. Human or animal, stray souls find a home in her house for as long as they require. When they leave, she keeps in touch. A human day-runner, she never loses track of what’s going on in other’s lives even if she hasn’t seen them in years. She reminds you of birthdays, of people you forgot you knew. She’ll raise your pets, your friends, your kids. She’ll care for your things long after you’ve forgotten them, and produce them years later when a sudden memory sparks a need.

She constantly worries about us. The family joke: if you’re an hour late she not only knows you must have been in a horrible accident, she’s got the color and license plate of the car that hit you. In truth, she shoulders the worry and “what ifs” on our behalf. Becoming a kind of safety harness that leaves us free to take risks, because we know she’ll never let us fall too far. She truly believed that the popular kids were just jealous of me because I was so smart and beautiful. I never bought it, but it helped to know someone else did. She thinks I can do anything, and somehow taught me to believe it.

As the oldest, I had the luxury of her full attention for the first two years of my life. I never did formally learn to read, or study the rules of grammar. She read to me so often that I just picked it up, the same way other kids learned to talk. I don’t have any memory of a time I couldn’t read and write. She introduced me to Conan-Doyle, Agatha Christie, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Edgar Allen Poe. Thousands of others were read because I was bored and we always had a ton of books lying around the house.

Once all four of us were born, I don’t have the vaguest idea how she coped. Dad constantly traveled on business, and she was more than outnumbered. But she always managed. She’d let us erect entire cities, covering the floor with our Fisher Price buildings and Match Box cars. One year we used rope and nails to hang blankets around my room and create a haunted house, with her and my father as our sole customers. We’d put on Christmas plays: I was Rudolph, my brother was Santa, my sister the little girl sleeping under the tree. We ruined most of her LP’s by using them as Frisbees or skates to slide across the carpeting. When we got older and moved to Iowa from the Chicago suburbs, it was a bit of culture shock. She was used to stores open until all hours of the night, so she could shop after we were in bed. We were used to trips to the zoo, the Field Museum, and the planetarium, to riding the train and being ten minutes away from our grandparents. But she made the best of it; she’d load us in the car and take us to Oakland Cemetery to see the Black Angel, to City Park to ride the rides. No seat-belt laws at the time, I recall begging her to squeal around the corners so we could slide around on our backs in the rear of the station wagon. We rolled up the carpet in the basement and created our own roller-rink. We brought home baby rabbits or birds, and she raised them in cardboard boxes until they were old enough to be let loose. She even helped me feed an injured butterfly one year. I found it in our bushes, unable to fly. It lived through half the winter. She fed our hamsters, our parakeets, our dog and our cat, and searched under beds when my brothers’ chameleons escaped.

It wasn’t always good. As we grew up and things got hard, there were many things she regretted saying and doing. But in that, she taught us how to apologize. Fully and completely, without reservation, so that relationships mend and grow instead of remaining fractured with a break inside where hard feelings can fester. As the years went by and we left the house, she stayed home more often. She became a fixture for us, always there when we needed to drift in for a time. Life’s problems got even bigger than any of us could imagine, and she became the shelter we fled to when things got too rough. She was always there, but I missed seeing her out, having fun. We wondered whether she should be doing more things for herself, following her own dreams.

In July, before we knew she was sick, I got the chance to take Mom and Dad out for his birthday, just the three of us. It was a simple night, dinner at a pub and playing a bit of pool afterwards. It was the first time I’d been out with them alone in ages, possibly since my brothers and sister were born, I don’t know. As we were sitting there, an vague sense of deja-vu kicked in. I remembered what it was like in those early days, before things got so hard., when we would just go out and have fun. I made one of those mental notes that I had to do this more often. I wish I’d done it sooner. I wish we had more time. But then, that’s the way with things. My mom taught me that people are the most important thing. But she’s also taught me not to neglect my dreams, to put them on hold for some mythical space when there’s more money, more time, more stability. Life is balance, isn’t it?

I know on some intellectual level that life will go on with or without her, and we are all going to be fine, though things really don’t feel okay just now. I won’t be able to hug her and smell Cover Girl makeup and Charlie perfume. To hear her tell me she loves me. To have her frustrate me by defending someone who really hurt my feelings. To be able to call her when I am sick with a cold and have company tomorrow and I can’t get my house clean, and Mom could you please, please, please help me? But here are things she gave me:

Because of her, I sit on the sink to do my makeup.
I can raise my left eyebrow like Scarlett O’Hara, and I will probably be able to do the splits until the day I die.

I call ice cream in root beer a “black cow” instead of a root beer float.

I read about nine hundred words a minute.

I know how to use Liquid Gold to make old wood look new, and how to get out rust stains.
I prefer to clean my house at about 1:00 am., sometimes to old 70’s music.

Because of her, I tell my stories with way too much background and bore people to death before we get to the issue.
I hold onto weird items in case someone needs them someday.
I’ve learned never, under any circumstances, shave my eyebrows.

I know that vodka is less fattening than beer.
Food sometimes really does make you feel better.
I can recite most of the collected works of Dr. Seuss.

I read gravestones in cemeteries.
I always sit with some leg under me, more perching on furniture than relaxed into it.

I can pick things up with my toes.
I stand on my kitchen counter to reach objects on top of the cabinets.
But I will never stand on the sink in case I lose my balance and get a toe stuck in the faucet.

If I want my dog to go into the other room, I tell her to “go settle down” – even if she’s fast asleep and snoring at the time.

I’ve never had problems projecting on stage. Mom can call a kid home from half a mile away.

I’ll think of another hundred things later, and every time I do I’ll remember.

But the most important lesson is still to give. I now know that people will be who they are until they’re ready to change, perhaps never. Advise them as best as you can, but in the meantime, love them anyway, apologize when you’ve hurt them, bail them out when they need help, worry about them whether they appreciate it or not. Even if they never get a clue, they’ll thank you for it.

We're having a visitation Friday evening here in Iowa before heading back to the Chicago area for the funeral. Things are more than hectic as we're planning the services, so I'll probably be AWOL for a while. For those who need the times and official information, the obit is here.

For mom, in heaven, where I'm sure the internet has penetrated by now:

Bye mommy. We love you.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Stifling of Dissent

Professor Volokh has this post on an example of political correctness stifling open debate in a University setting.


This assignment:


I. Purpose: to persuade or at least to create tolerance for your point of view on a controversial issue; also to acknowledge the opposing side of the issue. . . .

Subjects to Avoid . . .

4. Topics on which there is, in my opinion, no other side apart from chauvinistic, religious, or bigoted opinions and pseudo-science (for example, female circumcision, prayer in public schools, same-sex marriage, the so-called faith-based initiative, abortion, hate crime laws, the existence of the Holocaust, and so-called creationism). For example, see Terrence McNally's "Just a Love Story," Los Angeles Times, 13 February 2004: B15. McNally correctly concludes that those who oppose same-sex marriage do so for one reason: homophobia. "Homophobia," as Robert Goss points out, "is the socialized state of fear, threat, aversion, prejudice, and irrational hatred of the feelings of same-sex attraction" (Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto, New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993: 1). In other words, homophobia is to gays and lesbians what racism is to people of color. Neither homophobia nor racism can be tolerated in civilized, rational debate; therefore, I will not accept either as arguments, however disguised, in your papers.

Professor Volokh, who incidentally teaches free speech law, copyright law, the law of government and religion at UCLA, has this response:

So in other words, the following arguments are inherently "chauvinistic, religious, or bigoted" -- not just mistaken or incomplete (necessarily, since they're short summaries), but chauvinistic, religious, or bigoted:

"Hate crimes laws are counterproductive, because they reinforce identity politics, and make racial groups more aggrieved at each other rather than less. They are also morally misguided, because assault or murder should be treated the same whether it's motivated by racism or sadism. Finally, they risk unduly interfering with people's free speech because they will often require prosecutors to comb through defendants' political statements and associations."

"Faith-based social programs should be entitled to be treated on an equal footing with non-faith-based social programs. If government money is spent on drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and a religiously themed program seems likely to do a good job at providing such rehabilitation, then it should get rehab funds just like a secular program should."

. . .

"The Establishment Clause has been badly misread by the courts; it should never have been interpreted to apply to state and local governments. Local majorities should thus be entirely free to implement prayer in public schools, should they wish to, so long as students aren't legally punished for not participating." . . .

a professor who holds the "opinion [that there is] no other side apart from chauvinistic, religious, or bigoted opinions and pseudo-science [on these topics]" either

1) is strikingly intolerant of reasonable, thoughtful, civilized argument that expresses viewpoints with which he disagrees, or

2) has not given much serious thought to the subjects.

Neither is a quality we should much appreciate in our university professors.

I have rather strong feelings on the stifling of debate in any form, provided what we're talking about is a rational debate rather than hysteria or mindless name-calling.

One of the best classes I ever took was a Con Law II small group class. For two hours, three times a week, students who ran the spectrum from very, very, very conservative to very, very, very liberal were forced to rationally explain their viewpoints in terms of legal theory. We argued the most intricate details of the most divisive issues. Some of the hypotheticals we came up with were so intricate and so unrealistic that it was almost hilarious. The two extremes never did really understand each other, but they did learn how to make their opposite number's argument.

What I learned: 1) Rational people are capable of dissent on any topic. While it's tempting to dismiss the opposition as moronic or bigoted, there will always be some intelligent people who hold that point of view for sound, logical reasons. 2) If you're afraid to ever discuss your beliefs, perhaps you'd better re-examine them. It could be a sign that you don't think they'd stand up to the scrutiny.

Another Presidential Candidate Matcher

The AOL/Time presidential test has far more thoughtful choices than the last one - I could actually find a position I agreed with, instead of spending half my time selecting "I would choose another option."

In case you're wondering, it still came out for Kerry 42% to 39%, but that's well within the margin of error.

When Rehabilitation Fails

Martha must've gotten out early?


Ever laugh hard enough you had to close your office door or people will wonder what's wrong with you?

Dave Barry's Guide to Emoticons.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


According to this test, I should be voting for Kerry:

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)

2. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (59%)

3. Cobb, David - Green Party (50%)

4. Nader, Ralph - Independent (50%)

5. Brown, Walt - Socialist Party (50%)

6. Bush, President George W. - Republican (49%)

7. Badnarik, Michael - Libertarian (36%)

8. Peroutka, Michael - Constitution Party (11%)

The Kerry thing I can buy, but Green Party? Puhleeze. Though it justifies my opinion that I only agree with about half of the positions of any given party.


Been trying to remember to add audition info to my theater blogging. ICCT has put out a call:

Auditions for ICCT’s upcoming production of Cinderella are:

Sunday October 24 1-5pm

Monday October 25 6-9pm

Auditions will be held at the Community Theatre Building at the Johnson County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Those auditioning should bring a prepared 16 bar song.

Ages 16 and older are encouraged to audition.

For more information call Evie Stanske 354-3523.



Directed by Evie Stanske

December 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12

Just in time for the holidays, ICCT presents a new version of the timeless children’s classic. Cinderella dreams of escaping her drab life, and gets a taste of what her world could be when she attends a glamorous ball. But will it last? Will time run out? Will her dreams turn to dust? Of course not!

With convenient early Saturday afternoon performances, this Cinderella is a perfect fit for the whole family. And who knows? Santa Claus might even be there!


Dec 3rd Evening 8pm

Dec 4 Matinee at 1pm

Evening 4pm

Dec 5 Matinee 2pm

Dec 10 Evening 8pm

Dec 11 Matinee at 1pm

Evening 4pm

Dec 12 Matinee 2pm


To follow up on two earlier posts:

Scrappleface blogs about Bush's plan to save medicare by sending the elderly to the front lines.

The National Review presents Antonia Frazier with the "Upperclass Twit of the Year" award for her letter to Ohio voters as printed in the Guardian.

Meanwhile, John LeCarre sent his letter in as an op-ed in the LA Times. I guess Ohio just isn't glamorous enough.

As a side note, Greenman feels the flap about this is largely based on our attitude: "I now think that as a whole Americans are proudly self loathing cowboys. We take great pride in our "go it aloneness" and self sufficiency but get really bothered when other countries start "puttin on airs". You know what if we want to be proud of our beer drinking, cowboy hat wearin selves and even our language mangling Buckaroo in Chief than we need to just accept that other within or outside our country may find us bit "common"."

My own sentiments:

1) If I were a "cowboy" it would be well within my character to tell other nations to mind their own business. It's consistent with the whole "go it alone" mentality.

2) Non-cowboys can also resent being treated with condescention. It's kind of a human trait to dislike being looked down upon.

I don't know, maybe some people are being hypocritical about this. But I resent junk mail from any source, even a prim and proper British correspondent.

And My Beagle is a Moped

Ernie the Attorney points out this case answering the age-old question: is a cow a motor vehicle? The plaintiffs want their insurer to pay them underinsured motorist benefits because the cow with which they had the collision qualifies as a motor vehicle, and should have been covered under an automobile policy.

One Nation, Under Retainer . . .

State 29 also points out the pending lawsuit on Iowa political ballots. Apparently the fact that we require people to vote in their correct precinct and check off a box stating we're a citizen is too difficult and could disenfranchise people. Both are interesting points, but given this google article, I see this election becoming a lot more about the lawyers than the voters.


Tusk and Talon and the Iowa Libertarian point out this bit of stupidity on the part of Jimmy Carter, comparing Iraq to the Revolutionary War:

CARTER: Well, one parallel is that the Revolutionary War, more than any other war up until recently, has been the most bloody war we‘ve fought. I think another parallel is that in some ways the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. It was an unnecessary war.

Had the British Parliament been a little more sensitive to the colonial‘s really legitimate complaints and requests the war could have been avoided completely, and of course now we would have been a free country now as is Canada and India and Australia, having gotten our independence in a nonviolent way.

I think in many ways the British were very misled in going to war against America and in trying to enforce their will on people who were quite different from them at the time.

To be fair, he was actually set up. It was the commentator who drew the parallel between these two ridiculously divergent wars and asked him for similarities. I mean, we were a subject nation under the UK prior to the revolution. We were technically British citizens. Not so much for your average Iraqi. We went into their country and toppled their government, fairly elected or not, and not exactly at their request. And from my history books, I don't recall too many governments back then being "sensitive" to the needs of their colonists or subject nations. I seriously doubt it was ever a real possibility, given the times. That's like saying the ancient Romans could've avoided civil collapse by being a bit more sensitive to the needs of their provinces and neighboring nations. An interesting idea, but not exactly workable in practice.

Halloween Stuff

Homercles has a post on buying the old Karloff movie "the Mummy." I loved that one. I also saw another version once when I was a kid, where they were showing the Pharoh being buried and they killed all his concubines. I remember all the girls crossing their arms as some barechested guy with a sword hovered in the background. Scared the crap out of me. I wonder who did that one? My favorite was always the Haunting, an old version of the Shirley Jackson novel. That pounding in the hall was reeeeaallly creepy, and watching the main character slowly go crazy? Got me every time. I'd watch that and the Hound of the Baskervilles - the Basil Rathbone version - late at night with real popcorn made on the stove and plenty of butter. The new Haunting movie was just stupid, IMHO, with moving walls and stuff. Left nothing to the imagination.

Meanwhile, Fitz-Hume has some costume suggestions for couples.

Judicial Retention

The Des Moines Register has an editorial about the retention process, and why Judge Neary shouldn't be kicked off the bench for political reasons. State 29 thinks we should just kick them all off. That would make things interesting.

Thank You, Juror #6

The Scott Peterson prosecution gets assistance in cross-examining the defendant from a juror. Maybe we should rethink our trial procedure to allow this kind of thing?

Yeah, What He Said

Thomas Friedman has a nice column on the issue of undecided voters (Registration required: username/randommentality password/password if you haven't registered). Key excerpts:

I believe there are two things troubling the soul of America today. One of them is: We really do have enemies out there. The other is: We are really on the wrong track.

Whether they are watching the news from Iraq, where hooded men are sawing off the heads of Americans and blowing up Iraqi civilians who are standing in line to join the Iraqis' own police force, or they are contemplating the suicide bombings from Bali to Istanbul, or they are merely reflecting on 9/11 and the applause that attack still receives in certain quarters, nearly all Americans do feel in their gut that we really do have enemies out there.

John Kerry's most important challenge in this election campaign is to connect up with that gut fear in the American soul and pass a simple threshold test: "Does this man understand that we have real enemies?" Mr. Kerry, wrongly in my view, tried to use his heroic Vietnam War record to pass that test by implication. He did not make the sale.

In the debates, he tried to both criticize the Iraq war and to look voters in the eye and say: I know we have enemies and I will confront them, albeit in a different and wiser manner than George Bush has.

How did that go over? I believe that Mr. Kerry presented himself as an articulate, informed and credible commander in chief - but did he make the sale to the great American center? Not clear. My own free advice to Mr. Kerry is if he is unsure about this, he should drop everything else - health care, deficits and middle-class tax cuts - and focus on this issue. Everything else is secondary.

President Bush has a different problem. The threshold test that Mr. Bush had to pass was: "Does this man understand that we are on the wrong track?" Even though the situation is still salvageable, right now Iraq is a terrible mess because of the criminal incompetence of the Bush national security team, and we are more alone in the world than ever. . . .

Conservatives have failed their own test of patriotism. In the end, it has been more important for them to defeat liberals than to get Iraq right. Had Democrats been running this war with the incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld & Friends, conservatives would have demanded their heads a year ago - and gotten them.

Did the president, in the debates, answer these concerns? He barely tried. His strategy is to focus all his energy on fanning doubts about whether Mr. Kerry understands that we have real enemies, so voters will not focus on how much we are on the wrong track - with virtually no friends in the world and an Iraq that is now so insecure our own soldiers are afraid to drive certain roads. . . .

My sentiments exactly. Both candidates have a point, yet seem to be blinded to the other side's point of view. I am not convinced, as others are, that they are merely taking political posturing to an extreme and will somehow "see the light" once elected. I was looking for a hint in the last debate, some sign that they truly realized the merits of the other side's position.

Kerry failed to "make the sale" for me. The only mention he made of using troops was to criticize how Bush used them. When asked specifics on how he would do better, he mentioned: 1) Homeland security; 2) Intelligence; and 3) Building alliances. He never once discussed sending troops anywhere for any reason. In the first debate, he implied the troops in Afghanistan were a good idea, but again it was in the context of criticizing Bush's move to Iraq, not a point-blank statement that he would've sent them in. He indicated that our troops were overextended, and seemed to imply that he'd stick around now that we're in Iraq. But given his history of anti-war sentiment, it's important for him to state absolutely unequivocally when he would send troops and under what circumstances. Otherwise the question of whether he would bend to the more extreme anti-war sentiments held by a significant portion of his support block remains. All I've seen so far is "as a last resort." Sounds nice, but one person's last resort doesn't necessarily jibe with another's. Is it another 9/11? When one of those evil dictators we seem so capable of spawning takes over another nation? The threat of nuclear capability - and if so, how imminent? Or is it when the US itself has actually been invaded? If he gets this clear, he'll have a whole lot more support from the undecided category.

As for Bush, I don't even have to go back to the transcripts. He seems blissfully unaware that he's lost the broad mandate of support he seemed to command in the post-9/11 days, as the majority of us are seeing things teetering on the edge of insanity. He's lost it primarily through his inability to admit he was ever wrong on any subject for any reason. GWB, meet my friend Reality. No WMD's have been found, and they're not likely going to come up with any now. Even if you don't think you were wrong to act on the information you had at the time, you can admit that the information was faulty and the steps you've taken to correct the flaws. You can admit in hindsight it was perhaps a tad premature to declare the war over a year or so ago. Maybe even that you wish you'd checked into a few things. You can admit that we are overstretched and the economy isn't exactly as bouncy as you'd hoped. Admitting it is the first step to recovery, and it would go a long way toward adding to your constituency.

In other words, who is least controlled by the fanatics on the lunatic fringe of his respective party? Who shows some capability of standing up to the right-wing nut jobs or left-wing moonbats and taking a reasonable course through this admittedly dangerous time in history?

So it comes to this: no matter how much flak undecided voters get, how many satires on how stupid they are are written, or how many times they're called the "Most Loathsome Pond Scum Spider-Spit Person of the new American century" and told they should be "rounded up by Homeland Security and kept at Guantanamo Bay, at least though November 3, under the care of Private First Class Lynndie England and her playful band of photographers"; I stand firmly with the "undecided" group. I do care, I am very aware of the issues. Probably too aware, that's my difficulty. I just somehow shake my head and wonder if this is really the best we can do?

For the record, I will vote on election day. I hope by then one of the candidates will have come to their senses. Otherwise, I'll just have to go with what I've got, and really hope there's not too much damage done in the next four years.

Oh, and for the record, in case either of the campaigns somehow stumbles across this backwater portion of the internet: I'm not influenced by stretching the truth, yard or highway signs, elaborate photo ops, grossly exaggerated advertisements, or making faces at the other candidates. I'm dissecting every word you say quite carefully do divine your ability as my representative on this very messed-up planet. Please speak clearly, in great detail and without any outside assistance, and I'm happy to hear what you have to say. And please don't both of you insist that you really are blind to all of the other side's points, or I may have to move farther than originally planned.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Election Weirdness

Got this email over the weekend:

Date: Sat, 16 Oct 2004 15:45:54 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: More False Documents

RatherGate proved that bloggers are the best fact checkers. That is why we are writing to a few bloggers asking for help.

Yes Bush Can has collected several documents that are clearly suspect. But we need your help to prove they are fake:

Let's spring to action before these documents needlessly tarnish the reputation of our Commander and Chief. You know the drill: analyze the handwriting, search for factual errors, and post your discoveries.

And keep us posted by sending email to

Thanks in advance for your help.


(I fixed the formatting, which was even more odd than it appears).

So I go to the link and come up with this:

Calling All Conservative Bloggers!

You exposed RatherGate by proving the CBS documents were fake -- nice work! But now the liberals have found a bunch more documents so our work is not done. Let's get to work proving that these are fake, too!

Dick Cheney's DUI
George W. Bush's DUI
George W. Bush's Second DUI

Bush and Cheney have excellent judgement and would never get behind the wheel while drunk.

Memo to Ken Lay
Second Memo to Ken Lay

Ken Lay has been indicted on felony fraud charges -- there is NO WAY he was this close with President Bush.

Bush Daughters' Possession of Alcohol
It must be fake: This is clearly a liberal media snow job on these poor girls.

Osama Warning Document Part 1
Osama Warning Document Part 2

This so called "official document" suggests that Bush was asleep at wheel before 9-11. Get real.

Are there any other fake documents we are missing? Please send them to us so we can post them on this site for conservative bloggers to debunk.

Don't lose faith! Some conservatives don't think it is possible to debunk these documents. But real Bush supporters know that anything is possible with a president as great as ours.

(NOTE: I didn't bother to copy and paste all the links, if you're that curious, go to the site. Most of them seem to be Drudge Report copies.)

At first, I think this has got to be a joke. I mean, GWB has admitted he had a DUI on national television. Anyone who tries to "debunk" this is simply going to look veeerrry stupid. The "second" DUI to which the site refers is actually just the suspension of his license from the first criminal charge, and no one to my knowledge has argued otherwise. Both are on the Drudge archives.

Jenna's PAULA and no-contest plea are also on Drudge, and has been widely reported, as has Barbara's no-contest plea. They haven't publicly admitted it like GWB did, but no one expects them to at this point, they're not candidates.

Etc., etc., etc.

If this is a fake site designed to lure bloggers into looking foolish, they must have a very low opinion of the intelligence of their target audience, which I find rather incomprehensible. If real, I must pose the question: "What color is the sky in your world?"

(Side note: They target me as a "conservative blogger." Technorati labels me a "liberal". Hmmm.)

Olly Olly Oxen Free

Two thoughtful posts:

One presenting the argument Osama Bin Ladin is alive.

The other that he's dead.

More links here at Tusk and Talon.

Letter Campaign

I saw on the Volokh Conspiracy that there have been new developments in the spamming of Clark County, Ohio, by members of the UK regarding the upcoming presidential election.

My fisking of the original "call for letters" article is here; it is based more on the piece's smarmy tone than the concept of engaging in political philosophical debates with foreign nationals, which is something I personally do regularly. As a first side note: I've had to change the links to the piece as it's been replaced, but the google cache (thank God for Google) is still available. Second side note: apparently they stole the idea from Tim Blair.

I'm also annoyed at their cloaking the letters with the big media pretense of impartiality: "Of course, who you urge your voter to support is entirely up to you. On October 20 we will publish a selection of the most persuasive letters to Clark County in the Guardian." Really? So I'd expect to see the letters at approximately 70-30 in Kerry's favor, as reflected by opinion polls of UK citizens. Not so much so far.

This special article from the Guardian prints off three of the letters, from John LeCarré, Antonia Fraser, and Richard Dawkins. All are for Kerry, and at least Fraser's and Dawkin's have that special condescending tone most generally employed by the intellecutally narcissistic to intimidate those they consider mentally challenged. LeCarré's is strongly worded, but on consideration, I found it passionate and not offensive. The best excerpts:

Antonia Fraser

O duty

Why hast thou not the visage of a sweetie or a cutie ... ?

Why art thou so different from Venus?

And why do thou and I have so few interests in common between us?

. . .

These sentiments on the subject of duty, so brilliantly expressed by Ogden Nash, may well be yours, dear Unknown, when I, a national of another country, urge you to do your duty and vote in your coming presidential election. In fact, of course, we have all too many interests in common. . .

Richard Dawkins

Dear Americans,

Don't be so ashamed of your president: the majority of you didn't vote for him. If Bush is finally elected properly, that will be the time for Americans travelling abroad to simulate a Canadian accent." . . .

A surprising response was printed in the Guardian as well: this column entitled "I bet the Guardian editor £50 he's wrong" by Mark Steyn. He makes an interesting point about Dawkin's letter:

"The reason is advice like this, from Guardian reader Richard Dawkins, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Dawkins begins his missive to the Clark County swing voter with a little light Bushophobia: "An idiot he may be, but he is also sly, mendacious and vindictive... thuggish ideologues. pariah state. brazenly lying. cynical mendacity" yada-yada.

But then he goes on: "Now that all other justifications for the war are known to be lies, the warmongers are thrown back on one, endlessly repeated: the world is a better place without Saddam. No doubt it is. But that's the Tony Martin school of foreign policy."

At this point, the Guardian's editors intervene with an explanatory parenthesis: "[Martin was a householder who shot dead a burglar who had broken into his house in 1999]." And then Dawkins continues: "It's not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. The world would be a better place without George Bush, but that doesn't justify an assassination attempt."

You just blew it big-time in Clark County, prof. Voters may be divided on Bush and on the Iraq war but, in the American heartland, they're generally agreed on a homeowner's right to take out a burglar."

A little background: Tony Martin is a British farmer who shot at burglars Brendon Fearon and Fred Barras, who were breaking into his home at the time. He wounded Fearon and killed Barras. He originally received life in prison on a murder conviction, but his charge was reduced to manslaughter and his sentence reduced to five years. A subsequent civil suit for injuries filed on behalf of Fearon has apparently been dropped.

The problem I see with Steyn's criticism of Dawkin's letter? Who other than legal scholars and some gun rights people will know who Tony Martin is?

I don't know that these letters are going to be effective, myself, as I found the tone condescending at best, hence my rather snarky fisking. And, of course, we still have a slight problem with Great Britain ordering America around. As Jim Lindgren of the Volokh Conspiracy notes:

Rosicka's comment reminds me of something that Dan Polsby (now on George Mason's faculty) said on my first day at work at the Northwestern Law School in 1996. Princess Diana was in the building that day and almost everyone was excited to try to catch a glimpse of her. I would have shaken her hand if introduced, but I saw no reason to figure out where she was to get to see or meet her. Polsby was asked by an administrator if he had seen Diana and he replied, "Didn't we fight a war to be rid of these people?" Indeed!

I find it hard to believe that condescending letters from professors of the public understanding of science at Oxford University will carry much weight with Ohio voters, nor will posts from professor-bloggers. The frustration of foreign elites is perhaps understandable. Yet there are a lot better reasons than a letter from the UK to vote for or against George Bush.

The best of these ostensibly non-partisan letters are due to be published here tomorrow. I'll try to take a peek and post on the results. Then let's see who wins the fifty pounds on election day.

Results #938470-938475 . . .

Every now and again I check out the weird searches that people have made that somehow bring them to my site. This one isn't weird so much as useless: an MSN search for the word "Co". Nothing else, no punctuation, just "Co". It brings up over seven million pages. The thing is, I'm nowhere near the first page on the search, so someone must've been scrolling through an awful lot of random stuff. Nothing like a well-crafted query.

I'm baack

Returned from my all-but-useless business trip. The whole thing was basically a set-up to get me to attend a mediation in person that could easily be done over the telephone, by trying to force a trial date when we all knew dang well they didn't want to go to trial.

Actually, I think it was a tactical error on their part to have me down there. I know the plaintiff's bar pushes the idea of getting the opposition there in person for mediation. My point: I probably would've probably paid more if I hadn't gone. 1) They lost the implicit threat that I'd have to make last-minute arrangements to travel down there for trial once I had made the trip, as it was no longer any big deal to me personally for the trial to go forward. 2) They really annoyed me by dragging my behind down there when I'd already seen the plaintiff and they had no new info to give me. To be fair, they did give me a few new medical reports (surprise, surprise), but it wasn't anything I couldn't have read just as easily in Iowa. They played a few videos that I could've watched on my computer here, and incidentally weren't impressive at all. Between that and the opening statement that took a good forty minutes, they seemed determined to push every button calculated to drive the parties further apart by alienating me.

The rules of the mediation had changed from collegiality to posturing. I know how to play both games, and I'm not one to crumple at being yelled at. I mean, they should see criminal defense work if they think the "tough guy" routine will make any dent on me. I've been threatened with murder by defendants if I didn't make a particular plea deal, and I personally find murder little more inconvenient than a business trip.

In the end, I suppose I annoyed plaintiff's counsel almost as much as they annoyed me by making tighter moves than I would have otherwise. I actually made him get all red in the face, cuss and wave his arms.

The upshot: if their goal was to make it a pain in the behind, they succeeded. If their goal was to maximize settlement value, I believe they lost. I suppose it's all a matter of what you want.

NOTE: this is all a matter of personal opinion, and in no way represents the official opinion of any company, including mine.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

More Theater Blogging

Last night I caught Out of Order at the Old Creamery. Loved it, but I'm a sucker for a good farce a la Bringing Up Baby or Arsenic and Old Lace. The cast is a talented group of professional actors, (hi,Jessica!) and they did a fantastic job. Check it out if you are in the area, it runs through the 7th.

Tonight I'm going to go see Paula in Riverside's Walking the Wire:Blue Yonder, by local artist Kate Aspengren. Then I'm headed to Bill Zuber's in Homestead to see Scott and Michelle Dalziel play. They are AWESOME, if you haven't had a chance to check them out. And really nice people.

Next weekend ICCT is going to reprise Cast Your Vote in Song, just in time for the election. They're going to have volunteers signing people up to vote.

And if you're into the bizarre for Halloween, Bat Boy is opening at City Circle on October 29th. It's directed by Michael Stokes, so you know it's going to be good. . . . . . .

Wow, I am a theater slut.

Admitting it is the first step?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Legal Updates

FYI: The new Iowa Court of Appeals opinions are up.

Theater Blogging

Paula Grady, who was in Tale of the Allergist's Wife and Rosenstrasse with me, will be acting in "Solo Flights" with Riverside Theater. Should be a good show.

More of the Same

The last debate transcripts are here, if you missed them. I was going to post on it. I had all my links gathered, and even started a rough fisking of the transcript:


Presidential Debate, Oct. 13

Tempe, Ariz. (Arizona State University)

Participants: George W. Bush, John Kerry

Moderator: Bob Schieffer, CBS

Topic: Domestic policy

A transcript of the debate as transcribed by e-Media Millworks, Inc.

Note the topic: Domestic policy. Bets on the first to speak also being the first to wander off into Iraq or the war?

SCHIEFFER: Gentleman, welcome to you both.

By coin toss, the first question goes to Senator Kerry.

Senator, I want to set the stage for this discussion by asking the question that I think hangs over all of our politics today and is probably on the minds of many people watching this debate tonight.

And that is, will our children and grandchildren ever live in a world as safe and secure as the world in which we grew up?

Ha. I bet you didn’t think I meant the moderator. Everybody drinks.

KERRY: Well, first of all, Bob, thank you for moderating tonight.

Thank you, Arizona State, for welcoming us.

And thank you to the Presidential Commission for undertaking this enormous task. We're proud to be here.

Mr. President, I'm glad to be here with you again to share similarities and differences with the American people.

Will we ever be safe and secure again? Yes. We absolutely must be. That's the goal.

Now, how do we achieve it is the most critical component of it.

I believe that this president, regrettably, rushed us into a war, made decisions about foreign policy, pushed alliances away. And, as a result, America is now bearing this extraordinary burden where we are not as safe as we ought to be.

Potentially controversial right off the bat. The Iraq war didn’t cause terrorism. That said, doves are banking on the idea that the ranks of Al Quaida are swelling because of mid-East resentment of the war, and that terrorist attacks are inevitable because of the war. On the other hand, there haven’t been more terrorist attacks on US soil since 9-11. Hawks would say that proves the effectiveness of the response, rather than the converse.

The measurement is not: Are we safer? The measurement is: Are we as safe as we ought to be?

Actually, I believe the question was whether we’d ever be safe again. He’d have done better to tie that in: the question is not whether we’ll ever be safe again, but are we as safe as we should be right now? Oh well.

And there are a host of options that this president had available to him, like making sure that at all our ports in America containers are inspected. Only 95 percent of them – 95 percent come in today uninspected. That's not good enough.

Okay, this is a bit bogus, according to this article:

This claim ignores that the manifests of all U.S.-bound cargo are screened before they reach American ports and all high-risk cargo is identified. U.S. officials then physically inspect the high-risk cargo — which accounts for about 5 percent of the overall total. On whether the inspections are adequate, a new report by the Homeland Security Department internal investigator that surfaced Wednesday concluded federal inspectors of oceangoing shipping containers still need to improve their detection equipment and search procedures to prevent terrorists from sneaking weapons of mass destruction into the United States.

So they don’t come in uninspected, just underinspected.

People who fly on airplanes today, the cargo hold is not X-rayed, but the baggage is. That's not good enough. Firehouses don't have enough firefighters in them. Police officers are being cut from the streets of America because the president decided to cut the COPS program.

Valid points, though straying from his premise: I thought the war caused us to be unsafe?

So we can do a better job of homeland security. I can do a better job of waging a smarter, more effective war on terror and guarantee that we will go after the terrorists.

Good. How?

I will hunt them down, and we'll kill them, we'll capture them. We'll do whatever is necessary to be safe.

Nothing like being specific.

But I pledge this to you, America: I will do it in the way that Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy and others did, where we build the strongest alliances, where the world joins together, where we have the best intelligence and where we are able, ultimately, to be more safe and secure.

Again, nothing like being specific. We’ll get better intelligence (how?), build alliances (again: how? what if they don’t want to play ball?), and join the world together.

But in listing specifics, you mentioned intelligence and domestic law enforcement issues, while omitting any reference to foreign military action whatsoever. Given most of the terrorists aren’t currently on US soil, that concerns me a tad. All the intelligence in the world won’t help if you don’t have the ability to do something about it. This is an issue I’d really have liked to see addressed in some depth: would you agree that traditional law enforcement techniques are not designed to handle foreign insurgency movements such as Al Quaida, or not? And if you agree, what other than declaring war on countries that harbor terrorists would you propose? And what would you do if the alliances you propose won’t play ball?

This is where I want to play law professor. Put the hypo in terms most favorable to the hawk’s position and ask him how he would do it differently. Something like this (forgive me if it sucks, having never been a law professor):

Hypo: Another terrorist attack, with terrorists, clearly tied to a particular nation, “Terrorland.” According to your world-class intelligence, Terrorland pays only lip service to apprehending the terrorists. Behind the scenes, it is aiding the terrorists and covertly funding the activities. Government propaganda machines are used to bill the terrorists as “freedom fighters.” You go to the UN for aid, and find that the proposals put forth by the UN via such important, traditional allies as France and Germany are hollow: allowing in our troops, but only under their government’s (hostile) supervision and escort. Not surprisingly, we can only pick up scanty evidence of additional terrorist activity that way: the terrorists seem to have advance warning about where we are going and what we are doing. Our intelligence in the UN tells us that in exchange for these soft-ball concessions, certain members of our “allies” governments are getting trade perks and payoffs. Negotiations have reached a standstill, and the world is watching. What do you do?

Other odd thoughts: Ronald Reagan had the world join together? Was I asleep at the time?

Reagan needs an acronym, he’s out of place with the other two. RWR is just not happening for me, though.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, you have 90 seconds.

BUSH: Thank you very much.

I want to thank Arizona State as well.

But the Presidential Commission and John Kerry? Not so much. They can go screw themselves.

Yes, we can be safe and secure, if we stay on the offense against the terrorists and if we spread freedom and liberty around the world.

Makes it sound like peanut butter on some nice, fluffy white bread.

Sorry, was that out loud?

I have got a comprehensive strategy to not only chase down the Al Qaida, wherever it exists – and we're making progress; three-quarters of Al Qaida leaders have been brought to justice – but to make sure that countries that harbor terrorists are held to account.

Okay, let’s hear that comprehensive strategy. What’s it consist of?

As a result of securing ourselves and ridding the Taliban out of Afghanistan, the Afghan people had elections this weekend. And the first voter was a 19-year-old woman. Think about that. Freedom is on the march.

And Liberty is getting down on the dance floor. Think about that.

We held to account a terrorist regime in Saddam Hussein.

There was a terrorist regime in Saddam Hussein? Is this like that weird mirror thing: a terrorist inside a terrorist inside a terrorist?

In other words, in order to make sure we're secure, there must be a comprehensive plan.

Seriously, you listed some good things you’ve done to date. Still waiting on the details of that comprehensive plan, though.

My opponent just this weekend talked about how terrorism could be reduced to a nuisance, comparing it to prostitution, illegal gambling. I think that attitude and that point of view is dangerous. I don't think you can secure America for the long run if you don't have a comprehensive view as to how to defeat these people.

I knew you’d refer to the “terrorism as a nuisance remark.” You got that out of the way. Now gimme your comprehensive plan.

At home, we'll do everything we can to protect the homeland. I signed the homeland security bill to better align our assets and resources. My opponent voted against it.

We're doing everything we can to protect our borders and ports.

But absolutely we can be secure in the long run. It just takes good, strong leadership.

That’s it: do everything we can? You need some more concrete goals and objectives, dude. Think “seven habits.”


Then I realized I'll never get the answers I want. I want GWB to honestly outline what he would do differently if he'd known about the weaknesses in the evidence for WMD's at the time he made his decision to invade. I want Kerry to honestly answer what he would do if faced with the situation as Bush characterizes it, as in the hypo I outline. I want to know how they feel either one of them is fit to be leader of the free world considering all the distortions and accusations they're throwing around to muddy the waters, from "Kerry will cause terrorist attacks" to "Bush will draft everybody." Given that honesty with the people is such an issue in this election, I'd have thought that would be best avoided.

In the end, I'm with Greenman. Wonkette said it right:

10:28PM: Kerry closing speech: "Sound bite, sound bite, aspirational sound bite, hand gesture, God bless America, kill terrorists."

10:30PM: Bush closing speech: "God, education, sound bite, blink, compassion, pander, blink, pander, God, terror, blink, blink, liberty, God, terror, I rock."

10:31PM: Our call: Bob Schieffer wins. Audience loses. French neutral. America safer now that Saddam is out of power. No, wait. . . Fuck. What did the media tell me again?

Goose, Meet Gander

Disney's getting sued by the Peter Pan people for their prequel book "Peter and the Starcatchers."

Eugene Volokh's looked at the issue, and it seems the copyright has run out.

I was actually hoping they'd get nailed, as they're the outfit who keeps trying to extend copyrights to protect The Mouse:

"Mickey Mouse Goes to Washington

Back in 1998, representatives of the Walt Disney Company came to Washington looking for help. Disney's copyright on Mickey Mouse, who made his screen debut in the 1928 cartoon short "Steamboat Willie," was due to expire in 2003, and Disney's rights to Pluto, Goofy and Donald Duck were to expire a few years later.

Rather than allow Mickey and friends to enter the public domain, Disney and its friends - a group of Hollywood studios, music labels, and PACs representing content owners - told Congress that they wanted an extension bill passed.

Prompted perhaps by the Disney group's lavish donations of campaign cash - more than $6.3 million in 1997-98, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics - Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.

The CTEA extended the term of protection by 20 years for works copyrighted after January 1, 1923. Works copyrighted by individuals since 1978 got "life plus 70" rather than the existing "life plus 50". Works made by or for corporations (referred to as "works made for hire") got 95 years. Works copyrighted before 1978 were shielded for 95 years, regardless of how they were produced.

In all, tens of thousands of works that had been poised to enter the public domain were maintained under private ownership until at least 2019. . . .

Ironically, many of Disney's animated films are based on Nineteenth Century public domain works, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Pinocchio, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Alice in Wonderland, and The Jungle Book (released exactly one year after Kipling's copyrights expired)."

Stop the Madness

Slate has an article up on the poncho trend. My excuse for having one the last go-around is that I was about nine years old and had therefore legally incompetent. I refuse to repeat that particular fashion crime now that I'm old enough to have the mens rea.

Via Matthew Yglesias.

Getting Personal

The Des Moines Register has this article on flap about Kerry invoking Mary Cheney as a sort of homosexual poster child during the last debates. I tend to agree it was not a good idea on his part.

For what it's worth, while I do believe that personalizing the issue is a valid technique in answering the question. However, I think it was out of bounds for him to use anyone without their express permission, particularly the opposition's daughter.

If you have to use somebody to personalize an issue, use someone from your own family or campaign. If Kerry doesn't personally know anyone of alternative gender orientation he could use as an example, perhaps he should broaden his horizons.


Talkleft disagrees, feeling that to say that the remark was somehow a cheap shot implies that being gay is a negative thing.

I think there's a distinction. To illustrate, I would feel it similarly out of line if Cheney's daughter were in the military and Kerry used her to epitomize the opinion of all soldiers regarding the war. It's not her gender identity that's offensive, it's that he picked a member of the opposition's family to illustrate a point - any point. Pick on your own people.

Public Service Announcement: Handy Reporting Tools

I saw this on the bottom of an opinion page website and checked it out. It's a tool for letting your opinion be heard by the traditional media: it lets you send an email to up to five local media outlets automatically - it searches out their addresses, and you type your own email. Technically, it's run by a conservative group, but the emails are blank and therefore open to use no matter what political persuasion you happen to espouse. I bookmarked it for future reference, and it occurred to me others might want to do the same.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Political Junk Mail

Now we can get it from the UK, too.

The result of the American election in less than three weeks could have huge consequences for the whole world. Yet those of us outside the 50 states have had no say in it. Until now, that is.

If you'd like a say in the US government, you may wish to actually live in the US. Just a thought.

In the spirit of the Declaration of Independence's pledge to show "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind", we have come up with a unique way for non-Americans to express your views on the policies and candidates in this election to some of the people best placed to decide its outcome. It's not quite a vote, but it's a chance to influence how a very important vote will be cast. Or, at the very least, make a new penpal.

The Declaration of Independence? Pardon my crude American slang, but isn't that the document that basically told you Brits to kiss our collective ass?

It works like this. By typing your email address into the box on this page, you will receive the name and address of a voter in Clark County, Ohio. You may not have heard of it, but it's one of the most marginal areas in one of the most marginal states: at the last election, just 324 votes separated Democrats from Republicans. It's a place where a change of mind among just a few voters could make a real difference.

And for only $9.99 we'll give you the email addresses so you can spam them directly. . . .

Writing to a Clark County voter is a chance to explain how US policies effect you personally, and the rest of the world more generally, and who you hope they will send to the White House. It may even persuade someone to use their vote at all.

'Cause God knows those US-types don't know their head from their shiny pink bottom. They think "hanging chad" is some guy with his fly open.

A few tips about writing to Clark County:

Be courteous. Remember that it's unusual to receive a lobbying letter from someone in another country. Think about how you would respond if you received a letter from Ohio urging you to vote for Tony Blair - or Michael Howard . . .

If you're very polite, our confusion with the unfamiliar use of etiquette might make us forget what you're really saying: that we're such idiots you don't think we've the capacity to choose our own government; and that if you could, you'd actually have the entire country declared incompetent, put under a conservatorship, spanked, and sent to bed without supper.

I'm sure they'll appreciate when we reciprocate with little notes outlining our opinions on their political, social, and economic system. Just remember, kids, use your words. Four-letter ones are sometimes effective, but best when written in crayon.

Don't make any assumptions about the voter with whom you have been matched. His or her name comes from the publicly available voters' roll. The voter has not registered any party affiliation. (We don't want individual Clark County voters bombarded with lobbying letters so this site will assign only one name and address to each user - please don't pass yours on to anyone else.)

Of course, if there's only the one letter, that's not so offensive, then, is it? Presuming that the voter will overlook the fact that the entire letter is an assumption that the recipient is politically and intellectually "challenged."

Explain why you think they should pay the slightest bit of attention to what you think about their election. Remember, charm will be far more effective than hectoring.

Distracting them with pretty pictures and shiny objects works nicely, too. Americans are very gregarious, social animals, and you might be tempted to think them quite tame. But please remember to keep your hands outside the cage at all times. Some of our Americans are grumpy and have been known to bite the hand that feeds them propoganda.

Of course, who you urge your voter to support is entirely up to you.

Ed.: "Why are you laughing? No, I'm serious. It's a nonpartisan project. Well, maybe not. But we have to convince them it is. Let me try it again. "I don't care who you vote for, all I really care about is that you take the time to exercise your . . . " No, I am not smiling. Quit yer laughing, it's hard enough as it is. Maybe if we tell them Princess Di would've wanted it that way?"

On October 20 we will publish a selection of the most persuasive letters to Clark County in the Guardian.

Oh, I so have to remember to blog that.

Got it first from the Patron Saint of Mediocrity.


Josh points out that I should clarify that I'm not actually in favor of telling the rest of the world to kiss off and stay out of our elections. I merely took offense at the tone of this article, which seemed condescending at best.

Dork Gunners from Hell

From Begging the Question, a hysterical lawschool flashback moment. I remember those types so vividly. Ours was also veeery conservative, not just pro-life but against all forms of birth control including timing/rhythm. He got so frustrated when he couldn't change the hypo to suit his world. Got thrown into Con Law II with radical lesbians and some vegan types. I was in that class. It was a blast to watch them make each other's heads spin around.

And I'm a Procrastinator

Thanks to Iowa Girl, and Jennifer, I completely wasted my lunchtime.

You are a pheromone. You are seductive and you know
what you want. You have something about you
that permeates the air and draws people to you.
You can get what you want almost without fail,
like some of the sexiest moths out there.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?

Fun with the Talking Heads

From my friend Madonna: Presidential Debate Bingo!

This would make an awesome drinking game.

Not that I advocate that kind of thing.

So the Alternate Theory is, um, Immaculate Conception?

This fair and balanced sentencing featured on CNN:

Hajara Ibrahim, a 29-year-old woman, was sentenced on October 5 by an Islamic Sharia court in the Tafawa Balewa area of the state, having confessed to having sex with 35-year-old Dauda Sani and becoming pregnant, the court said in a statement.

"The court has however handed the woman convict to her guardian to take care of her until she delivers the baby before the sentence will be executed by stoning her to death according to the provisions of the Sharia penal code," the court said.

"There is no evidence to link him with the allegation and consequently the court acquitted him for lack of evidence."

Oh, I see. I bet she forgot to bring her four male witnesses along to prove who the father was. And a paternity test? Too much bother, I suppose.

Might I suggest their judicial system is perhaps a tad mysogynistic?

Hat tip: the Yin Blog.

That said, a google search on the subject of male and female testimony in sharia law comes up with some thoughtful pieces such as This position paper and this website.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Legal Updates

The Supreme Court has granted review to a few important religion cases:

According to How Appealing, they're going to hear a ten commandments case, so we might get a bit of clarification on that issue. This article has more:

The high court will hear appeals early next year involving displays in Kentucky and Texas.

In the Texas case, the justices will decide if a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds is an unconstitutional attempt to establish state-sponsored religion.

A homeless man, Thomas Van Orden, lost his lawsuit to have the 6-foot tall red granite removed. The Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the monument to the state in 1961. The group gave scores of similar monuments to American towns during the 1950s and '60s, and those have been the subject of multiple court fights.

Separately, the justices will consider whether a lower court wrongly barred the posting of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky courthouses.

McCreary and Pulaski county officials hung framed copies of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses and later added other documents, such as the Magna Carta and Declaration of Independence, after the display was challenged.

Sounds like they'll be hitting the two primary issues: purpose of a modern display, and whether it can fall under the Lemon test as applied to christmas displays. (We called it the teddy bear rule in my con law class after the Lynch v. Donnelly case). The Lemon test:

First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."

The Lynch twist - from a pro-atheism website, but it gets the analysis right from what I recall:

Chief Justice Burger's opinion for the Court in Lynch began by expanding on the religious heritage theme exemplified in the earlier decision of Marsh v. Chambers, in which prayers before a legislative session were upheld. Evidence that "[w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being" was supplied by reference to the national motto "In God We Trust," the affirmation "one nation under God" in the pledge of allegiance, and the recognition of both Thanksgiving and Christmas as national holidays.

In this context, the Court decided that the city's inclusion of the creche in its Christmas display had a legitimate secular purpose in recognizing "the historical origins of this traditional event long [celebrated] as a National Holiday," and that its primary effect was not to advance religion:

The display is sponsored by the city to celebrate the Holiday and to depict the origins of that Holiday. These are legitimate secular purposes. The District Court's inference, drawn from the religious nature of the creche, that the city has no secular purpose was, on this record, clearly erroneous.

The benefit to religion was called "indirect, remote, and incidental," and in any event no greater than the benefit resulting from other actions that had been found to be permissible, for example the provision of transportation and textbooks to parochial school students, various assistance to church-supported colleges, Sunday closing laws, and legislative prayers. Key to this decision and the many following lower court decisions on religious displays during religious holidays is the existence of a secular purpose. So long as one can be reasonably found, the display will be found constitutional. . . .

In this decision, the Court specifically refused to adopt an absolutist stance regarding the separation of church and state. According to Chief Justice Burger, the Establishment Clause does not demand a "strict separation of church and state," but instead demands accommodation between the two.

Each Establishment Clause case is to be independently checked to determine whether the intent is secular or religious. Religion in general may be advanced by the government in some cases so long as there is no administrative entanglement with religion. Key in this case was the fact that the religious display was surrounded by secular symbols, creating what has become known as the "plastic reindeer rule."

In addition, Justice O'Connor gave a new explanation to the Lemon test, which became known as the "endorsement" test:

The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person's standing in the political community. Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive entanglement with religious institutions, which may interfere with the independence of the institutions, give the institutions access to government or governmental powers not fully shared by nonadherents of the religion, and foster the creation of political constituencies defined along religious lines. The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. Disapproval sends the opposite message.

The purpose prong of the Lemon test asks whether government's actual purpose is to endorse or disapprove of religion. The effect prong asks whether, irrespective of government's actual purpose, the practice under review in fact conveys a message of endorsement or disapproval. An affirmative answer to either question should render the challenged practice invalid.

So the questions to be analyzed will by why the displays were erected, and whether putting up that Magna Carta and other historical documents can save such a display.

In another interesting religion case,

"The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to consider the constitutionality of a federal law that requires state prisons to accommodate inmate religions, from Christianity to Satanism.

The case does not question inmates' rights to practice their religions but asks whether a state must grant a request for a particular diet, special haircut or religious symbols."

'Iowa' is for 'Education'

Saw this on Jennifer's History and Stuff:

I love the movie Ice Age, but it'd be nice if people didn't think it was historically accurate. Twice now I've been in conversations with people who used this cartoon to back up their stance on something. The first time was when someone said Stonehenge was in North America...although she wasn't sure exactly where. "Maybe Canada." When I asked why she thought that, she said that in the movie, the animals go past both Stonehenge and Yellowstone. Oookay. But Stonehenge is in England. "Then why would they have that in the movie?" Dunno. "Maybe they went over the land bridge in Alaska." Yeah, maybe. But I think that'd be an awful long way to walk. Then today the subject of dodo birds came up, and someone said they were wiped out by the last ice age. Sigh. Dodo birds went extinct because humans killed them off in the 1600s.


I'm rubber, you're glue

And, in case you missed it, there was also an issue regarding whether Kerry had brought in a notecard in violation of the rules. It started with Matt Drudge, and the Powerline folks picked it up. Zombie Time has a frame by frame. INDC Journal posted these photos. Little Green Footballs had a video.

But on October 4, 2004, INDC Journal indicated that Fox News executives have reviewed the footage and determined it was a pen. A black pen. I don't know if that looks right to me, but it convinced INDC. Nice example of a real retraction/update.

Regardless, I don't think a notecards worth of stuff would help Kerry at all. It's interesting how TIVO and the web bring out hundreds of amateur investigative reporters to keep candidates on their toes.

Maybe we should strip-search them both before the next debate to prevent these kinds of issues? Nah. We'd never get them to agree to a body cavity search, and you know that those pens and microphones could be hidden just about anywhere.

Or are you just happy to see me?

Lots of new stuff on the web today regarding whether President Bush was miked during the first debate.

It began, per usual, with blogs: Portland Indymedia had several comments regarding a strange bulge in the President's suitjacket on October 2nd. Digby's Blog had a post up on the 3rd noting the same unusually box-shaped bulge. was already up and running by October 4, 2004 with the post "The Voice in Bush's Ear" and Palooka World had a post on it as well.

By the 8th, Salon had picked up the story, along with the Washington Dispatch,, and Kevin Drum over at Washington Monthly.

The Blue Lemur had a post up on October 9, not only linking to photos of the first debate, but one of the second debate allegedly also showing a wire.

Here are the pics from the first debate: here and here.

From the second: here and here.

According to the NY Times story of October 9th, (username: randommentality, password:password) the idea the photos were doctored is out, as the distortion is apparent on live video footage, and the speculation as to whether it was a bullet proof vest is also a dead-end as the White House denies he was wearing one. For those of you wishing to fact-check the NY Times,'s article indicates:

"To watch the debate again, I ventured to the Web site of the most sober network I could think of: C-SPAN. And sure enough, at minute 23 on the video of the debate, you can clearly see the bulge between the president's shoulder blades."

The video of the debates is on C-Span, though I can't get it to load now.

Also per the Salon article, the idea it was some sort of backup microphone appear to be out:

"An official for the Commission on Presidential Debates, which set up the lecterns and microphones on the Miami stage, said the condition was indeed real, the result of negotiations by both campaigns. . . . The official said that 'microphones were mounted on lecterns, and the commission put no electronic devices on the president or Senator Kerry.' When asked about the bulge on Bush's back, the official said, 'I don't know what that was.'"

My take on the issue:

1) I have my doubts about the second debate photos, they could be bulges at seams or shadows. But the rectangle on the first debate photo does not appear to be a natural seam bulge, as apparently Bush's tailor is claiming. I haven't reviewed the video of the first debate to determine how it looks compared to the still photos yet, but if the still photos are accurate, it certainly looks like there's something there. On the other hand, why doesn't it show up in silhouette shots like this and this? It's thick enough to show up in a back shot, but the silhouette looks smooth?

2) That said, I've got a few questions:

a) Having recently worn a mike box for Metamorphoses, I've been thinking through all the technical difficulties you run into with electronic mic/receiver boxes. Normally, it would be worn at the belt - much more disguiseable - or around the collar. But this appears to be dead in the middle of the back, where there's no buttonhole or other place to run a clip through. There was a time or two I had my mike box down that low, but it was on the back of an evening dress, not a guy's collar which is, if I recall correctly, located somewhere around the back of the neck. I suppose he could have some kind of elastic strap around his chest under the shirt. But: a) why go to all that trouble when you can wear it at your waist, and b) wouldn't the slight indentation of such a strap also show up in the photos? The jacket is stretched rather tight. A final practical question: there's a live mike dead in front of him for most of the debate. Feedback issues would have to be dealt with, would they not?

b) Wouldn't the President of the United States have access to a slightly smaller model? You can't tell me that a receiver box that size is state of the art.

c) His responses in the debate. Via Wonkette:

Yes, we've seen the pictures. But we also watched the debate. If Bush was listening to some kind of radio signal, it was between stations.

d) It's not like the debates are held in isolation booths. Candidates pat each other on the back. While some of the photos of the pre- and post- debate photo ops show Kerry with his left hand at his side while he shakes hands, others here and here clearly show that it is not. I presume its on Bush's back rather than his behind, though I wouldn't put much past Kerry. So there was a strap holding a receiver box and a wire up to Bush's ear and Kerry didn't feel a thing? Possible, I suppose, but plausible?

Where this will go, I don't know. I expect it to receive more play. Sooner or later someone's going to have to come up with an explaination. For now, it looks like the ball's in Bush's court to provide something more than a "seam bulge."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Updating the Blogrolls

Via a sporadic Technorati search I found Iowa Hawk Girl, who joins the ever-expanding list of Iowa Blogs. Looking at her blogrolls, I was reminded to add Jennifer's History and Stuff, One of Us , Off the Track , Bob and Opinion Paper to the blogrolls.

Things that make you go hmmm. . .



Unicorns Against Bush

Both via Wonkette.

More later. . . .

Must . . . drink . . . more . . . coffee

Stayed out way past my bedtime playing poker with Matt and Greenman last night, among others. After about midnight I found myself having to reeeaaallly concentrate to remember what color chips stood for what. I shouldn't have won that last game, but the luck factor kicked in. Fortunately, I could still think well enough to fathom that five consecutive cards of the same suit are a good thing. Thanks for the donation to the lunch fund.

After we joked all night about putting the best quotes in the blog the next morning, I can't recall any of them. I'm just too tired, even after four cups of coffee. I know we started saying some pretty weird stuff, particularly after 1:00 a.m., but the rest becomes a blur. You were kidding about taking notes, weren't you, Matt?

Friday, October 08, 2004

And You Thought Our Other Ruling Was Harsh. . .

The other thing that caught my eye was a two-case convergence. The first was from the last round of Court of Appeals cases, State v. Schoo.


In the early morning hours of August 31, 2002, Jesse Adams invited a group of people to attend an after hours party at a residence located in Eagle Grove, Iowa, after the bar they had previously been socializing at closed. Approximately twenty minutes after the party started, Schoo arrived at the residence. Upon entering the residence, Schoo walked into the living room and hit his ex-wife, Jamie. Immediately after the assault, Schoo fled from the residence.

Schoo was charged by trial information with first-degree burglary. A jury trial commenced on May 6, 2003. At trial, the theory of the defense was that Jesse consented, either expressly or impliedly, to Schoo’s presence at the party. The testimony given at trial was largely contradictory. Both of the bartenders who were working that night testified that Jesse made a general announcement to everyone remaining in the bar that he was having a party. Contrarily, Jesse denied making a general announcement and maintained he only invited the group of five friends with whom he was socializing. One of the bartenders testified Schoo came in at closing time to purchase a pack of cigarettes and could have heard Jesse make the announcement. None of the other witnesses remembered seeing Schoo at the bar that night.

The jury was only instructed on the charges of first-degree burglary, assault causing bodily injury, and simple assault because Schoo’s defense counsel requested certain lesser-included offenses be removed. The jury found Schoo guilty of first-degree burglary. He was subsequently sentenced to serve an indeterminate twenty-five year term.

The Court of Appeals upheld the conviction on the original burglary charge, stating:

“The jury was free to believe Jesse’s testimony that he did not make a general invitation to everyone left remaining in the bar and that he had not given Schoo permission to enter the residence. Likewise, the jury was free to disbelieve or attach less weight to the bartenders’ contrary testimony. Further, even assuming the jury believed Schoo had permission to attend the party, Jesse’s permission to enter was not for the purposes followed by Schoo. In this case, there was evidence Schoo walked into the party and immediately assaulted his ex-wife. This case is distinguishable from State v. King, 344 N.W.2d 562, 563 (Iowa Ct. App. 1983), where an initially cordial conversation turned into a dispute that led to an assault. Here, Schoo’s felonious intent could be inferred from his entry into the party and the short amount of time that elapsed before he committed the assault and his immediate retreat from the premises after the assault was completed. This permits the reasonable inference that Schoo did not enter for the permissible purpose of attending the party.”

The sequel to this little saga was played out in yesterday’s Iowa Supreme Court opinion in State v. Baker:


The day after the verdict was rendered, a juror (Krause) received a call from defendant Baker:

“that began with the caller’s question, “Is this Deb?” Because Krause and Baker had previously worked together, Krause recognized Baker’s voice, and caller ID confirmed the call was made from Baker’s telephone. When Krause responded that yes, she was Deb, the caller stated, “This is Rose.” The caller then asked Krause “if [she] knew that [she] gave him 25 years.” Krause understood Baker was referring to Schoo. Krause told Baker she did not know what sentence Schoo had received. Baker then stated: “Well, I just thought you should know you gave him 25 years,” and hung up the phone.

Krause notified law enforcement of Baker’s call. Although Krause did not feel threatened by Baker, she was bothered and upset by the call and Baker’s tone of voice. According to Krause, she “was in disbelief that [Baker] had called [her] to say that.” Krause said she “did not beg and plead to be one of the jurors,” and would rather not have been picked, but it was “something [she] had to do—whether [she] wanted to or not!”

Baker was charged with tampering with a juror in violation of Iowa Code section 720.4: “A person who . . . in retaliation for anything lawfully done by any witness or juror in any case, harasses such witness or juror, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.” Iowa Code § 720.4.

Baker filed an application for adjudication of law points, claiming:

(1) section 720.4 was unconstitutional as applied to her in this case as it violated her First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

(2) section 720.4 was unconstitutional because the statute did not give fair notice that it prohibited harassment of an individual no longer sitting on a jury, rendering the statute vague in violation of the Due Process Clause.

The Court first analyzed whether the statute and it’s definition of harassment infringed on Baker’s free speech:

“This court has held that the term “harass” as used in section 720.4 means “harassment” as defined in Iowa Code section 708.7(1). State v. Reynolds, 670 N.W.2d 405, 410 (Iowa 2003).

The portion of section 708.7(1) pertinent to this case states:

A person commits harassment when, with intent to intimidate, annoy, or alarm another person, the person . . . [c]ommunicates with another by telephone, telegraph, writing, or via electronic communication without legitimate purpose, and in a manner likely to cause the other person annoyance or harm.

Contrary to the district court’s conclusion, the statute does not prohibit speech that has a legitimate purpose. It only reaches communication that not only is “without legitimate purpose” and intended to “intimidate, annoy or alarm” the juror, but is done to retaliate for a lawful act of the juror in a court case. Id. Here there was clearly a jury question under the stipulated facts whether Baker contacted Krause to gather factual information about Krause’s knowledge and views of the sentencing system, or whether the contact was intended to intimidate or alarm Krause in retaliation for her role in convicting Schoo.

The real question here is whether the State can, consistently with the First Amendment, punish Baker for conduct that, while not consisting of threats or fighting words, could be found by a jury to be purposefully intimidating or alarming to a juror in retaliation for the juror’s lawful participation in the jury process. We conclude the statute does not violate the First Amendment for two reasons: (1) harassing conduct is not protected by the First Amendment; and (2) to the extent there is infringement on protected speech, such infringement is justified by the state interests at stake.”

The Court then turned to the vagueness issue:

“Turning first to the common meaning of the term, we find the dictionary defines “juror” as “1 a : one of a number of men sworn to deliver a verdict as a body : a member of a jury b : a person designated and summoned to service on a jury 2 : a person who takes oath esp. of allegiance.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1227 (unabr. ed. 2002). This definition does not clearly limit the term “juror” to a person actively or presently serving on a jury. That such a limitation would not be reasonable here is supported by the context of the statute and the legislative purpose underlying the adoption of section 720.4. The statute makes it a misdemeanor to retaliate for anything lawfully done by any juror in any case. Iowa Code § 720.4. The statute focuses on the role played by the victim in a court case without any temporal limitation. Furthermore, the most visible act taken by a juror and clearly the one most likely to generate retaliation is the verdict. In view of the purpose of the statute, it would seem odd indeed that its protection would cease at the very time this safeguard is most needed."

The Court concluded that the district court erred in holding the statute unconstitutional as applied to the defendant and dismissing the charge against her, and reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Well, at least she'll get a jury trial on the intent issue. The moral of the story? Perhaps you should consider writing letters to the editor, or better yet, a blog. Just don’t call the jurors.