Friday, October 27, 2006

Yeah, I Know

I haven't said much this week. I'm trying to figure out a billing/tracking system that doesn't involve selling my soul to either Westlaw or Lexis. There's got to be a way. There are lots of cool blogs on the sidebar, so you shouldn't lack for reading material in the interim.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Quick Aside to a Friend

Not linking the post that sparked this, but:

What happens at poker is all good. No apologies are ever necessary. Take care of yourself. Call if you need anything.

PS - I still think it was a valid bet.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Things I've Learned on the Internet Lately

Bras are dangerous. So is brushing your teeth. And Pop Tarts. The internet: opening an entire library of fresh motherlore. Remember when they had to make do with the same old boring "or your face will freeze like that" stuff?

Video games make lawyers into aggressive bullies. Full text of the letter here.

Scrabble isn't just a game. It's a way of life.

Where to get your french fries with a side of PC.

Where to find the International Travel Department of Tits. Apparently, it's in Tibet.

You remember back in school, stumbling into the 8 am class on Friday with an extra-large caffienated beverage and wondering who the hell thought education was a good thing, only to be confronted with that extra chipper prof who thought everyone should be bright-eyed and cheery? It could have been worse. I imagine a few of his students walk right back out the door and straight into detox.

Neil Gaiman charges Terry Gilliam a groat for book option. Apparently just for the hell of it. Cool. Side note: The book they're discussing, Good Omens? One of my faves. Seriously. Particularly if you like Monte Python or Douglas Adamsesque humor.

A Halloween twist on that whole candles-and-bubbles romance thing: Glow-in-the-Dark bubble bath. Now where was this stuff back when people were putting suds in the Ped Mall fountain?

Apparently strippers are responsible for any further global warming. Just so you know.

Need a fake id? Toonces gotcha covered.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rehearsal Blogging

Lots of silliness as we go off book for the first time. First, we had a long delay prior to starting rehearsal, while people got measurements taken for costumes and took care of other necessary bits. Somebody brought in the puppet, who's taking the place of one cast member. No, I'm not kidding. Thing is, the puppet already has a wardrobe. In fact, she's got better costumes than the rest of us. Have I mentioned she's also got the best lines?

Here she is getting told off by "Bernice"

Offstage, we're still running the lines.

"Olga" at the piano, being bugged by "Bernice"

"Linda" tells her mother off.

"Pat" and "Kaye"

"Keith" and "Terry"

Okay, somebody was up in the lightbooth

About a third of the cast, just hanging out:

"Terry and "her father"

Relaxing on the sidelines:

Fun Fact: It's probably about fifty degrees in there on cold days. We're freezing.

Quote of the night from extraneous conversation:
Q: "Do you know what Adderal is?"
A: "Do you mean from the Music Man?"

Most fun: After a character offs herself in a manner totally different from the script (a gunshot "blowing the top of her head off" was deemed more fun than poison, and that only after we tried to think up "safe" ways we could have her hang herself from the lightbooth) all cast members not onstage are required to stomp like we're runnning to her bedroom, then scream and sob randomly. We had too much fun thinking up things to say. I believe I heard things like: "Are you okay?" "Can I have her room?" We took the stomping and sobbing right over the top, too.

Only problem: we forgot not to laugh. Oh, and I suppose we shouldn't have been surfing on that platform thingy with wheels backstage. Whoops.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


This is too cool. Wish I'd seen it in real life. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a job that allows you to do such things?

Quick Quiz

via McSweeney's

Ikea Product or Lord of the Rings Character?


1. Faramir
2. Freden
3. Grundtal
4. Boromir
5. Molger
6. Galdor
7. Freda
8. Agerum
9. Babord
10. Frodo
11. Grima
12. Akurum
13. Brunkrissla
14. Sultan Högbo
15. Deagol
16. Grimbold

Answers here.

For more oddities that made me giggle, see also: Submission Guidelines for Our Refrigerator Door, Revised Corporate E-mail Signature, and Stories That Would Have Turned Out Differently If The Protagonists Had Had Cell Phones.

In theater babbling, we're plugging along, but it's rather interesting. Because of the size of the cast and the script, we're only going to have gone through each scene about twice before tech week. Memorization is going to be essential, and I'm waiting to see if we all pull it off. As for the cast: twenty-eight people, and that doesn't count the fact that four people are doubling up parts, one of them as a puppet. The puppet gets the best lines in the play.

We've also rearranged the set again. In running last night's scene, it occurred to us we should move the front door. With a small cast, this isn't a problem, but I anticipate we'll still be telling new people about the change a week from now.

On the good side: I've got one of those characters you can really play up, with a ton of "bits" that are good for a laugh. I even get to do a choke take with a banana. Yep, we're playing the double entendres. Should be fun.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Random Theater Blogging

So I'm in another show (surprised, aren't you?), which goes up in November:

By Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman

Directed by Jim Stewart

November 3,4,10,11 at 8:00 pm
November 5,12 at 2:30 pm

This is a realistic, behind-the-scenes play about show business, female camaraderie, and the lives of aspiring, tough-talking rival actresses who are looking for a break into show business on the New York theater stage. The classic 1937 movie version starred Katherine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers and introduced us to Ann Miller and Lucille Ball.

All Performances will be at Exhibition Hall on the Johnson County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Tickets will go on sale three weeks prior to opening night.

Theater whining will commence soon. . .

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cleaning Out the Lifehacker Links

I've gotten to the point where I've got too many Lifehacker hacks bookmarked for semi-permanent reference, and it's time to clean them out. Here's some of the tips and tricks I found useful:

Integrate Google Reader with Gmail via Greasemonkey You can easily integrate Google Reader feeds into your Gmail with this simple Greasemonkey script from Google blogger Mihai Parparita.

Remove any ink stain Pop quiz, hotshot: your favorite shirt has got a ginormous Sharpie stain on the collar. What do you do? Why, you check out housekeeping guru Sarah Aguirre's guide to ink stain removal, that's what.

Weekend Project: Make your own Halloween costume Michaels, an extremely large arts and crafts store, has put together a DIY Halloween costume index of over 50 costumes.

Get free PDF calendars, graph paper, and more Web site PDF Pad lets you download printable calendars, graph paper, charts, storyboards, and more.

Free international phonecalls (via Iowa) with Futurephone Make free international phone calls sans Skype with Futurephone, a company that's just got to be bleeding money. The service doesn't run ads or ask for personal information.

Send the elevator directly to your floor In a hurry to get to the 17th floor on a crowded elevator? The iHacked web site says a simple (but impolite) key combination can make some elevators skip everyone else's floor and go straight to your own.

Geek to Live: From Bloglines to Google Reader by Gina Trapani Every day I trawl through almost 250 web site feeds in order to write Lifehacker, and for the past 2 years I've used Bloglines to do so. (not even the one I helped build) had all the features I needed to track what I'd read and what I hadn't across computers and operating systems. That is, until I gave Google Reader another whirl earlier this week. The just-rolled-out Reader upgrades turned the app into an even better product than the much older and more-established Bloglines, and so I've made the switch.

MacGyver Tip: Check your tire tread with a penny The QueerCents blog has a primer on how to winterize your car including this neat penny trick: Check Tire Tread.

Convert files with Media-Convert Media-Convert is a free online service that will convert audio, video, and text files for you, from and to virtually any kind of format.

Seventeen things every freelancer should know Veteran freelance illustrator Megan Jeffrey lists 17 things she's learned over the 17 years she's been self-employed.

Tweak Windows prefetch for a faster startup Windows tips site IntelliAdmin suggests some ways to speed up Windows startup. Alongside the usual defrag and spyware-cleaning suspects, there's an interesting section on disabling Windows' prefetch. UPDATE: Not so much. See comments.

Find a routers login and password Our tongue-wagging tech gossip pals at Valleywag sent us this web page chock-full of default usernames and passwords for hundreds of routers.

Gmail Tips and Tricks Monster Roundup The Cyber-Knowledge weblog has a pretty good roundup of cool ways you can take advantage of your Gmail account.

How to defeat writer's block Author Scott Berkun says writer's block is really fear of writing something crappy - and offers some tips for getting past the anxiety.

Live like you're in school (really) If your life seems like it's getting a bit...stale, try these tips from productivity blogger Allen; his premise is that we should model our lives on our childhood schooling structure.

How to insert images and other HTML into Gmail The Digital Inspiration weblog has a step-by-step for adding HTML to Gmail messages.

Use WHOIS to track spammers Tired of that spam in your Gmail? I found a great (and easy!) tutorial from unspamming evangelist Matt Schneider on how to track these nefarious spammers using WHOIS.

How to make sure that hot spot is legit The techie smarties over at Grafdom have written up an excellent set of ten ways you can protect yourself at hot spots.

Learn the "best card trick in the world" How to site Instructables has a nifty tutorial that will teach you to perform the "best card trick in the world.".

Pinpoint why you are disorganized Sometimes, no matter how many productivity systems or getting to done tips we implement into our lives, we are still disorganized. Organizational expert Vicki Norris believes that there are five underlying causes that might explain why.

Geek to Live: Rescue files with a boot CD by Gina Trapani Few moments in computing are as heartbreaking as when you turn on your trusty PC only to receive that bone-chilling message: "Boot sector corrupt. Config.sys missing.

Auto inline MP3 player Greasemonkey script A handy music player Greasemonkey script inserts a play button next to any MP3 file you happen upon on the web so you can listen before you download.

Best time to buy airline tickets Weblog Sound Money Tips has posted a handy gem for getting the best rates on airline tickets: buy your tickets on Wednesday.

The 15 minute Windows XP tune-up Got a slow movin' computer? Try the Windows XP 15 minute tune-up. Chances are, it's not a hardware problem that's making your system run so slowly, but a backup of old, clogged data.

How to take good nighttime photos Nighttime photography can be tricky, but computing blogger Andrew Malek has some excellent digital photography tips to make it simpler. Topics such as setting, preparation, and lighting are all...

Stealth internet browsing with workFRIENDLY Web site workFRIENDLY is a browser proxy that reformats the contents of any URL to look like a Microsoft Word document.

Geek to Live: The art of asking In order to find the answer you're looking for, you have to ask the right question. No, I didn't just pull that out of a fortune cookie. Asking good questions is an essential skill that takes mindfulness, strategy and practice. The bottom line is: few people will help a person who doesn't help herself.

Oh, and I googled another hack myself, to write this post:

Use Gmail to Convert Word Docs to HTML
If you have a MS Word doc that you want to convert to HTML, the last thing you’d ever use is the “Save as Web Page…” command in Word. Talk about terrible code! Instead, you can send the attachment to your Gmail account and use the “View as HTML” link. Once the page is displayed in your browser, go to “View Source” and copy the code. Most of it is very clean and quite useable.

So to convert bloglines summaries into useable code, I copied and pasted them into a Word document, selected it all again and changed my styles to normal:web (which cleans it up a bit), emailed it to the gmail account, viewed source. Then copied and pasted it into Blogger, cleaning it up only minimally. Much faster than copying and pasting text and links from each entry.

UPDATE: Which would've worked great except for the d*mn smart quotes. Fixed the links now.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Theater Blogging

I went out and caught Seussical last night with Vicki. It was a scream. Given how much fun we had, I have to do a response to the tepid review in the DI.
The Cat in the Hat never quite did it for me. No, I'd have to say that he was my least favorite character of the whole Dr. Seuss bunch. It was just a hunch that I'd like the full, complete Dr. Seuss show, so I decided to give it a go.
In other words, "I hate the Cat in the Hat but I think I'll go to the show any way, in case I like it. And even if I don't, I can use my reviewer powers to eviscerate the performances. There's no downside. Sweet!"
Oh, the places one walks in the land of imagination, especially if the imagination were that of Dr. Seuss in Seussical the Musical, which runs all weekend in the City Circle Acting Company production at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington.

Sparked by Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, along with short bits of Green Eggs and Ham and Red Fish, Blue Fish, One Fish, Two Fish, Seussical rolls about examining those crazy thinks one can think.

However, the script was not written by Seuss, and the inevitable failings that come with attempting to imitate a master muddle the texture.

Translation: "It could have been a good script, if you'd have gotten Seuss himself to write it." Well, duh. Of course, he has long since made his appearance on Dead Pool rosters, but we'll go with that as a valid critique.
Emcee The Cat in the Hat, played by UI theater and vocal performance major Ben Bentler, only aid the disorder.
That's rather the point of the Cat in the Hat. He creates chaos, don't you remember? Oh, that's right. You hated him.
The musical's story follows Horton the elephant, who discovers and tries to rescue the almost-invisible Whos of Whoville. The Whos, most memorable in The Grinch Whole Stole Christmas, live on a planet smaller than a dash of paprika. When Horton finds them, he places the planet on a clover and strikes up a conversation with Jojo, the overly imaginative Who son of Mr. Mayor and Mrs. Mayor. As the lovable elephant becomes increasingly preoccupied with what looks like a "tiny speck," he draws negative attention from his fellow jungle dwellers. This conflict flings Horton into a rather perplexing story. I can only imagine the tangled thoughts of the children in the audience.
Are we still on that whole "the script sucks 'cause Seuss didn't write it" thing? Okay, get over it. Also, what do you mean, perplexing? The stories were familiar, often taken word for word from the books themselves, it was just tied together into one big production. Haven't you ever noticed before that the Whos of the Grinch were on the dust speck saved by Horton? I got that one at six years of age. In my mind, they were tied together a bit differently, and I wouldn't have thought to combine them with the Butter Battle book or McGillicot's Pool, but to do so without losing the essence of any of the stories was probably quite difficult. Regardless, to anyone familiar with the original books, as most kids are, it's not hard to follow at all. The kids I sat near were enthralled and left the theater asking when they could come back again. My only wish, if I'd written it: More Lorax, please. Other than a brief mention of the Truffula trees, he wasn't to be seen. Regardless, I'm not holding City Circle responsible for that.
Horton's neighbor, Gertrude McFuzz, played by Amanda Murray, is Horton's secret admirer, helping him defend the Whos while dealing with her own self-esteem problems, which derive from her lack of an adequate tail-feather. This sweet blue bird ends up being by far the gem of the cast. Her lovesick anxiety for Horton is endearing, and Murray's charming voice fit the part of a shy bird perfectly. The one-feathered bird catapults the story's focus from Jojo and his family in Whoville to the love tale of Horton the elephant and Gertrude, the blue love bird.
Horton and Gertrude's little romance is the central story of the montage, and I'm glad you recognized what an awesome performance Amanda puts in as Gertrude. It's fantastic to watch, every little gesture is just perfect for the shy, awkward little Gertrude. I'd never thought you could fit that big a voice into such a reticent little character (Amanda absolutely rocks, as you might recall from My Fair Lady), but it totally works.
Murray, a student pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, is perfectly matched by Christopher Carpenter in the role of the slightly older elephant who is too busy helping everyone to find his mate in Gertrude. Although they don't sing a duet until the end of the show, their two voices make Seussical worthwhile.
Can't disagree here.
While the musical is clearly performed by community-theater regulars, the cast is laced with a better-than-average crew of leading performers. The ensemble chorus chimes in whimsically, while that crazy cat and his damn hat seek to contaminate and confuse everyone.
"[C]learly performed by community-theater regulars?" Ooh, I think that's meant to be snide. 1) Yep, it's community theater. Got a problem with that? 2) Do you really want to know the number of people in the cast with significant theater credentials and degrees? I'd be careful about assumptions if I were you. 3) Since "better than average" seems like your idea of a compliment, I'll go with that.
The notion that imagination should take a back seat is brought up throughout the show, as Jojo and his feline co-narrator slide up and around Seuss' dream world. What Jojo and the rest of his Who community realize is that the world of imagination should not be locked up.
(This is known as the "prove you can recognize the overarching theme of the piece" portion of the article).
The performance addresses mainly the children in the audience, every so often admitting rougher themes, including child abandonment and war. Mayzie the Bird (UI junior Rachel Scott) has what one would call an ecstasy-filled three weeks of fun, which leaves her knocked-up and sitting on an egg. However, those pink feathers could never be expected to settle down on a nest, so Mayzie ditches her egg in favor of more fertilization in Palm Beach.

Talk of war adds another serious note. Jojo is sent away by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mayor, after indulging in unacceptable behavior - thinking - and ends up at a kind of military camp for abandoned kids. Jojo then leaves his troops, shouting his disapproval of unjust wars.
Seuss is political?!? *Gasp*
The plot gets lost in the muddle of political statements and disorienting songs and characters. Throughout the show, the most perplexingly useless character is that of the Sour Kangaroo, who lives in a jungle with her gang of miscreants. The craziness of the Sour Kangaroo's jungle, compared with the much more successful story of Gertrude and Horton's love, highlights some of the problems in this messy script.
Hold on a minute. You're seriously advocating the story of Horton without the Kangaroo, or the jungle? That's not an issue with the script, it's an issue with the original story. And who, precisely, would you have had play the antagonist in that piece? The clover? The Kangaroo and the Wickersham brothers are not only essential to the plot, they're icons. Don't you even vaguely recall the whole "boil that dust speck" chant from the old television special? And a side note: the rendition of Biggest Blame Fool in the first act was awesome. Meghann was spot on, with a sassy attitude and that hand puppet for a baby kangaroo. And Rod, Michael and Tom all dressed up in black and red pimp outfits? I couldn't stop laughing. Kids three rows away were staring at the crazy lady. Oh, and they play it up. They pose. They slink. Sometimes simultaneously. It's freaking hilarious.
The beginning and ending numbers could have been better executed, as could have most of the ensemble songs, but the solos, duets, and sidebar chorus songs dance rhythmically in the audience members' heads.
More information please? I thought it was fairly consistent from beginning to end, with gorgeous costuming and nicely executed choreography.
Large group scenes aside, the Horton and Gertrude story line carry the show; their relationship touches the hearts of children, parents, and students alike.
Chris as Horton was fantastic, and I love that whole trumpet effect. He completely rocked the songs, too. I think I saw a kid cry when he was singing Solla Sollew.

Okay, now for some bits the articles didn't touch on:

1) Chris O. as General Genghis Kahn Schmitz?! Oh my god, that's funny. Not only was his perfomance fantastic, but the casting . . . I just about died.

2) Patty McTaggert and Jim Verry as the Mayor and his wife. Complete with Carol Channing hair. Completely hilarious, great performances - the side bits just made the characters. And have I mentioned the hair? BTW - total props to Misty, I'm told she did all the hair, wigs and all. How do you do it girl?

3) In the "Horton in the Circus" scene, watching Deone try to juggle scarves with big honking glasses on, knowing damn well that with the lights and all she can't see a thing.

4) In the scene where all the Whos come out bandaged up because the clover with the dust speck on it had gotten tossed around, Ellen bandaged . . . her hair. She hurt her hair. LOL. And the sheer volume of bandages - I think City Circle might be putting "toilet paper" on its wish list this year.

5) Rachel's Maize rocks. And she has lots of grown-up jokes that, again, caused me to about lose it and the kids nearby to fear for my sanity.

6) Omigod, those eyelashes.

7) In the scene where Amanda's Gertrude goes to the doctor to get a tail implant, the Bird Girls are all in these short little nurse's outfits, cracking gum, with these jaded looks. Again, I don't think the kids got what I was laughing at. But that time it was okay, they were laughing at Amanda's sound effects as she ate more and more pills to make her tail bigger and bigger, turning her into the bird equivalent of Pamela Anderson. And when she comes back after the "botched" tail job. . . priceless.

8) Ben coming out for the first time as the Cat in the Hat, with the Cat looking somewhat like the emcee from Cabaret. Omigod that was good. And the scene where he's down in the pit with the orchestra? Totally better than Bugs Bunny, dude.

9) Ron as f*cked-up Santa.

So, hey, that's my take. Which has totally killed two hours off the eight in which I've told myself I must, must, must write a script for the new play festival. So I'm not allowed to blog anymore today. But go catch the show this weekend:

Seussical the Musical

Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Co-Conceived by Eric Idle
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Directed by Jeff Shields

Oct 5, 6, 7, 8 and 12, 13, 14*, 15
Thu at 7 pm, Fri/Sat at 8 pm, Sun at 2 pm
* two shows on Oct 14, 2 pm and 8 pm

Englert Civic Theatre
Downtown Iowa City

Following in the footsteps of our hit A Year with Frog and Toad, we are
again working with the Children's Museum to provide quality entertainment for children of all ages!

Seussical the Musical is the whimsical musical adaptation of the works of Dr. Seuss, beloved children's book author and illustrator. Audiences will be delighted as their favorite Seuss characters, such as Horton the Elephant and the Cat in the Hat, will spring to vibrant musical life on the Englert Stage.

In addition, all summer long at the Iowa Children's Museum, children and families can watch as the Seussical Set is built from the ground up and even participate in the decoration and design. "We are providing an opportunity for all of the community to have an active role in this show," says Chris Okiishi, producer of the show. "Everyone who visits the museum over the summer can see their work eventually on the Englert stage."

Sure to be a sellout, tickets will be available at the Englert Box Office starting in April. Creating Seussical at the Iowa Children's Museum opens June 2006.

More details at the City Circle website.

Fresh Law

The Iowa Supreme Court posted new opinions today.

ASMUS vs. WATERLOO COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Middle school teacher who filed workers’ compensation claim based on alleged mental injury appeals from decision on judicial review upholding workers’ compensation commissioner’s denial of that claim. Basically, the teacher had alleged numerous interpersonal conflicts with the principal and other teachers, and claimed that he equated the principal with his abusive stepfather and that the stresses thus produced were a major cause of his current depressive state, which was of a degree of magnitude such that he would never be able to teach again. The school agreed he equated the principal with his abusive stepfather and mispercieved the principal's actions as a vendetta, but argued he'd brought the prior stressors with him into the job, rather than job stress causing the breakdown. On the causation issue, the Court sided with the agency: "While evidence presented by the claimant would permit a finding of legal causation, it does not compel such finding. The ultimate decision in such instances is entrusted to the agency. Consequently, the decision of the workers’ compensation commissioner and the district court must be affirmed." The plaintiff had also argued Equal Protection, in that the standard for proving a mental injury required proof of legal causation (the claimant’s stress was “of greater magnitude than the day-to-day mental stresses experienced by other workers employed in the same or similar jobs, regardless of their employer.”) as well as evidence of causation in fact - that the stress caused the mental injury at issue; whereas the standard for proving a physical injury only requires evidence of causation in fact. The Court used a rational basis scrutiny to determine constitutionality - whether or not the distinction between physical and mental illnesses was rationally related to a permissible governmental purpose. The Court found that it was:
"In searching for a rational governmental purpose supporting the Dunlavey standard of legal causation in mental injury cases, we need only examine the reasons set forth in that opinion for adopting the standard that was chosen. After considering several different standards of causation in mental injury cases, some more restrictive than the one chosen and some less restrictive, we opted for the standard that was approved because we feared that if only causation in fact was required this would convert the workers’ compensation system into general mental health insurance because few workers with nontraumatic mental problems could not show that job stress somehow contributed to that condition. . . . The need to protect against that undesirable consequence provides a rational basis for the standard of legal causation that has been adopted. We have considered all issues presented and conclude that the judgment of the district court should be affirmed."
STATE v. GREEN is another reminder that the State can't get lazy or take shortcuts in proving up the elements of criminal cases. Defendant argued at her driving under suspension trial that the DOT had not properly notified her of the suspension. The State argued that the proper mechanizm to attack the suspension itself was not in the DUS criminal trial, but the required DOT agency appeals. It also pointed out of the Iowa Code Section 321.16, which states:
A person’s . . . claim of failure to receive a notice of revocation, suspension, or bar mailed by first class mail to the person’s last known address shall not be a defense to a charge of driving while suspended, revoked, denied, or barred.
Although it may seem like a good argument at first blush, the Court quickly decimated it, pointing out that: 1) While 321.16 does preclude arguing you never received the suspension notice, it doesn't preclude arguing that the DOT never mailed it. 2) While prior caselaw in which defendants had attempted to attack the suspension process did relegated to intra-agency appeals within the DOT, those cases were distinguishable because "in the present case, the issue is whether the condition precedent to agency action, i.e., the notice to the licensee, was established by the DOT." 3) While the DOT had introduced a copy of a suspension letter into evidence, it produced no testimony to support its claim of having actually mailed the letter, despite the fact that the DOT rules themselves required an affidavit of mailing. Because the State failed to comport with the evidentiary standard set up within the agency rules themselves, the evidence of notice was insufficient and the charge of driving under suspension could not stand.

STATE v. GRANT is a drug case arguing whether or not the State entered sufficient circumstantial evidence of an intent to deliver on the part of the defendant. According to the facts, many of the standard signifiers of dealing were absent: there were no large, unexplained wads of cash lying around, no lists of customers, and the amount of meth present was small enough that, while still fairly substantial, it could conceivably have been for personal use only. However, the 8-ball of meth had been divided into packages containing between .58 and .66 grams, generally used by drug dealers as “dosage” units designed for sale as such in order to produce a quick high. The defendant acknowledged this, but argued he bought it that way. The State argued it wouldn't make sense to do so, when it would've been easier to have bought all the meth in one bag, and dip into it for your individual dose, rather than going to all the trouble of dividing it out. It pointed out that drug dealers do have meth available in the larger quantities, which Defendant would more likely have bought if it were for personal use. The Court sided with the State, finding that the division of the meth into the dosage baggies could support a factual inference that the Defendant intended to deliver the drug instead of retaining it for personal use. The upshot: I guess the case simply reinforces the idea one should always buy bulk.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Jon Stewart on the Minuteman protest controversy at Columbia:
Neither side escapes Stewart's jabs. He remarks, "Congratulations, protesters, you've managed to make Sean Hannity seem like the reasonable one. I will say this, though, it's a group devoted to keeping immigrants out of this country, the Minutemen, and they're getting muscled out by an Ivy League, geek squad, pencil-neck caucus. I mean, yes, they had set up a security fence but, you know, it didn't really hold. How are you going to secure the border when can't secure the podium?"

The Youtube link.

via the Volokh Conspiracy.


Job-hunting tips from Salieri, the Patron Saint of Mediocrity. Some of my favorites:
If you have not figured out how to type accent marks on your computer, add them over the "e"s in "resume" by hand.

Give the firm a better idea of who you are by filling out a personality test from MySpace and including it with your resume. Don't forget - the hiring partner has to pass it on their ten best friends or they'll be haunted by the ghost of the girl who fell off the bridge.

Keep in touch with your interviewer after the interview. Forward him or her all the jokes your aunt e-mails you.

If you don't get an interview, show up anyway, but hide your identity with a mask. Refer to yourself as "El Candidato Misterioso" until you get in to meet the interviewer, then rip off the mask dramatically. Challenging the interviewer to a match at SummerSlam is optional.

If the interviewer does not tell you which name to call him or her by, err on the side of formality. Use "Your Exalted Magnificence" unless told otherwise.


After reading this Washington Post article, I'm revising my fantasy career goals. I used to want to find someone to pay me a decent salary and expense account to travel around the world and write critiques of exotic restaurants, luxury hotels, and adventure tours. But it appears I could accomplish all that without actually writing a word simply by becoming the head of the ATF:
The former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives violated ethics rules by requiring 20 employees to help his teenage nephew prepare a high school video project, part of a wide-ranging pattern of questionable expenditures on a new ATF headquarters, personal security and other items, according to a report issued yesterday.

Carl J. Truscott, who previously served as head of President Bush's security detail at the Secret Service, also took several trips with excessive numbers of ATF agents, including a $37,000 journey to London in September 2005 with eight other employees, according to the report. . . .

Fine's 157-page report confirms these allegations and many more, concluding that Truscott frequently broke regulations or exercised poor judgment in making decisions that had a serious impact on the ATF's operational budget when the agency was cutting back on vehicle maintenance, bulletproof vests and other basics . . . .

Truscott was particularly fixated on adding "unnecessary amenities" to the director's suite and the building's gymnasium, the inspector general's report said, including millwork estimated at $283,000. Agency e-mails show that Truscott requested for his office a 42-inch flat-screen television set that could be hidden when not in use. He wanted his personal bathroom to include a "[t]elephone, TV flat panel and radio speakers to listen/view news," a quartzite tile floor to match the floor in the building atrium, a bench with a water-resistant wood seat, a tile wall "in horizontal straight stacked layout vs brick," and sconces.
Best of all, the perks include not only free travel, but a chance to degrade others at your own expense:
The report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine also finds fault with Truscott's treatment of some female employees, saying that he ordered two female administrative staff members to prepare meals for guests on several occasions. One of the employees was allegedly required to announce, "Lunch is served." . . .

Some of Fine's harshest conclusions come in connection with an ATF school documentary by Truscott's nephew, who lives in the Philadelphia area . . . . The report said that over 10 months, Truscott's nephew peppered ATF employees in Philadelphia and Washington with e-mails and time-consuming requests, obtaining copies of stock ATF video footage, interviewing ATF officials -- including his uncle -- and using agency video equipment. "Significant ATF resources were used to assist Truscott's nephew on a high school project," the report says.

The nephew submitted his project to his teacher in April 2005, and included the credit, "Thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity Uncle Carl." The report says he received an A.

I wonder if he made them call him "Your Exalted Magnificence". C'mon - no sense having a perk like that unless you really use it.

If you're interested in the Duke LaCrosse controversy, TalkLeft says that 60 Minutes plans to air an interview of three of the players and the accuser's dance partner.

Vote for the most annoying song of all time on Leo's site (in the comments). The idea that sparked the poll:
Blender magazine editors chose Starship's 1985 hit "We Built This City" as the worst song of all time. Now they've assigned contributor Russ Heller to set a world record for repeatedly listening to the worst song ever. He'll sit in a plexiglass booth at the Best Buy in NoHo starting Friday at 8 a.m. and grit his teeth as "We Built This City" is played at least 324 times over a grueling 24 hours.

Hey, after a few years of therapy Russ should be just fine. My vote: "I Just Called to Say I Love You." Fingernails on a chalkboard are less annoying.

An excellent idea:
Let's be blunt. The phrase "climate change denier" is meant to be evocative of the phrase "holocaust denier". As such the phrase conjurs up a symbolic allusion fully intended to equate questioning of climate change with questioning of the Holocaust. . . . Let's declare a moratorium on the phrases "climate change denier" and "climate change denial." Let's invoke the equivalent of Godwin's Law in discourse on climate policy.
Is it just me, or are violations of Godwin's Law becoming increasingly prevelant? Count it as one of my major pet peeves, unless the subject is more than tangentially related to WWII or actual facism.

Also according to the Washington Post, cursive writing is becoming extinct. So I now have this vision of a bunch of us, ninety-something years old, writing in cursive as a secret code to drive the youngsters nuts. They won't have a clue what it says. We can coordinate a geriatric takeover of Disneyland . . .

okay, time to lay off the caffiene.

It's the age-old question: if you're naked and no one's around to see it, is it still public indecency?
Authorities: Naked prosecutor caught on camera

SCOTUSblog (Supreme Court of the US, in case you're wondering) has got links to the transcript in Cunningham v. California and Carey v. Musladin, and a report on the oral argument in Norfolk Southern v. Sorrell, also with links to the transcript. Meanwhile, Findlaw has a summary up of the punitive damages issues in Philip Morris v. Williams. It goes through a brief history of cases analyzing the rationality of relationship (or lack thereof) of punitives to actual damages, including the most recent State Farm case that initiated the "single digit multiplier" rule of thumb. The short version: Oregon courts feel that tobacco cases are the exception to the single digit rule, Phillip Morris (shockingly) disagrees. The article examines some of the factors that might go into the decision.

On Overlawyered: A German lawyer hopes to drum up more business by pursuing state compensation claims for people who believe they were abducted by aliens.
Side note: yes, I still do want to write a scene based on this for City Circle's New Play Festival. But I'm still trying to work out how to differentiate it from the scene I did with Kit two years ago. Maybe I should just mine the comments from Overlawyered's post. Love this one: Germany has a high lawyer to population ratio, as we do. (So this falls under the "lawyers have to eat, too" rule??) This is a good rent seeking, job generation tactic. (Hmm. . . interesting syntax. You're not American, are you?) The memory is common. The majority of alien abuse victims are likely to be mentally ill. (And precisely whom are we supposed to sue here?) Alien abduction is no more silly than the accepted, core doctrine of torts. Foreseeability of an accident results in a duty of the defendant to the plaintiff. The lawyer believes accidents can be predicted. Why not alien abduction? (I see. So if you drive on the wrong side of the road, or keep your sidewalk icy, or distribute a car that blows up upon rear impact, you have as much of a chance of causing an accident as an alien abduction? Ooookaaay.)

All kidding aside, these suits don't have a prayer. All the aliens have to do is invoke forum non conveniens, requiring us to refile in the Andromeda system local courts, and the plaintiffs are f*cked.

Helpful tips for criminals from the Crimlaw blogspot: 1) If you are going to commit murder don't do it with a gun with which you have previously shot yourself and left the bullet with the police officer. 2) It might sound cool at the time, but signing the letters outlining your escape plans in your own blood is just creepy and weird once you are in court.

Concurring opinions analyzes parole after Samson v. California, the Supreme Court ruling that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit police officers from conducting suspicionless searches of parolees. The full text of the ruling is here.

Okay, for an opinion on a strip club case, the opinion in DEJA VU OF NASHVILLE v. METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE & DAVIDSON COUNTY is pretty boring. But blawgers find the chance to point out it's DejaVu all over again simply irresistable.

Local legal news from the DI:

Vito's will pay the family of a former UI student nearly $450,000 to settle a lawsuit that accused the establishment of providing the student's killer with too much alcohol.

The employee of a local daycare is suing a UI professor and her husband for libel and slander, contending that the couple falsely accused her of molesting their children - which eventually caused lost business for the childcare center she works for.

They also have a somewhat tepid review of Seussical, which I intend to see tonight (break a leg, all).

Apparently, the US Department of the Interior hates blogs. That, or somebody who works there spent way too much time on Suicide Girls.

UPDATE: Considering all the buzz (and the ton of hits I'm getting from Gates of Vienna, I suppose my stray comment is rather facetious. However: 1) I don't think that a blanket blogspot block is necessarily content-based or discriminatory; and 2) While it would be fairly annoying, it is generally within the scope of an employer's power to restrict surfing for non-job-related things. That said, why don't you try a proxy? I always love messing with the IT people to find a way around the blocks.


UPDATE #2 - After a little prompting, I've finally made it onto the blogroll over at Iowa Voice.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What Happens When Red Hat Ladies Get High?

Tuesday Quizzes

You Are a Beagle Puppy

Cheerful, energetic, and happy go lucky.
And you're sense of smell is absolutely amazing!

Okay, now I miss my puppy.

You Should Try Base Jumping

One of the most dangerous extreme sports
Illegal, potentially legal - but totally worth the risk

I think I'd need to learn to skydive first. Do I look stupid?

Your Personality Cluster is Extraverted Intuition

You are:

A true wordsmith - a master of words
Original, spontaneous, and a true inspiration
Highly energetic, up for any challenge
Entertaining and engaging, both to friends and strangers

Well, duh. See sidebar "my bloginality is ENFP"

Monday, October 09, 2006

Semi-Fresh Law

As I indicated earlier, the Iowa Supreme Court posted new decisions last Friday. Some items of note:

1) The definition of an "operator" of a motor vehicle for insurance purposes under LE vs. VAKNIN. The basic facts: Vankin's father owned an automobile. Vankin took the car for a drive, bringing along a friend, Hop Nguyen, the friend's girlfriend, Amanda Le, and her friend, Kate Polouchkina. Both Amanda and Kate were thirteen, did not have learning permits, and had not previously driven a car. Yet, Vaknin somehow decided to allow Kate and Amanda to drive the car. When Amanda was driving, she lost control of the vehicle when negotiating a curve. Vaknin, from the passenger's seat, attempted to grab the steering wheel in order to control the vehicle, but was unsuccessful in preventing the car from leaving the road and crashing into a tree. Amanda sustained severe injuries in the crash. She sued Vankin for negligent entrusting the a motor vehicle to herself as an unqualified driver, but then she also sued her insurance company, American Family, for coverage under the uninsured motorists portion of her mother's policy.

The uninsured-motorist provisions contained in American Family’s policy stated:
"We will pay compensatory damages for bodily injury which an insured person is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle."
While Amanda herself was clearly the driver of the vehicle at the time of the collision, the plaintiff argued that the term "operator" should nevertheless be read to include Vaknin, because: 1) The term "operator" should be interpreted broadly in the uninsured motorist context, to include persons with a right to control the vehicle and have delegated physical control to another under their supervision; or because 2) At the time of Vankin's negligent act - the entrusting of the vehicle to Amanda - he was the actual physical operator of the vehicle; or because 3) He had grabbed the steering wheel at the time of the actual impact. The Court made short work of the first argument, quoting ample caselaw to support the premise that only the actual driver is in physical control of the vehicle, and the theoretical right to dictate or supervise where the car goes and how fast does not equate to actual operation. The Court also fairly quickly rejected the second argument: "We are satisfied that the district court correctly determined that the type of uninsured liability that triggers application of American Family’s coverage is operational fault causing the injury for which recovery of uninsured-motorist benefits is claimed. . . . That being the case, it was logical for the trial court to fix the time for the jury’s determination of operator status as the time of the accident." What surprised me was that they also flat-out rejected the third argument: "Assuming without deciding that one who seizes the steering wheel of a motor vehicle and thereby causes an injury-producing accident may be considered to be an operator for uninsured-motorist purposes, we are satisfied that this is not the case if the seizing of the wheel is an effort to prevent an accident caused by faulty operation of the vehicle by the person who has been exercising the driving function." Don't get me wrong,I like the rule and I like the simplicity of the logic. I was just surprised they didn't go with the plaintiff's argument and allow the jury to do some sort of fact-based balancing between Amanda's and Rankin's negligence, but rather just decided that anytime you try to grab the wheel to avoid an accident, you are not an operator - at least for UM purposes - as a matter of law. Interesting.

2) Footnote #1 in FENNELLY v. A-1 MACHINE & TOOL CO.:
1 In Iowa, all real property not exempt is subject to property tax. Iowa Code § 427.13. Importantly, “real property,” for purposes of taxation, encompasses more than is covered by the traditional definition of real property—land and fixtures. See Black’s Law Dictionary 1234 (7th ed. 1999) (“Land and anything growing on, attached to, or erected on it, excluding anything that may be severed without injury to the land.”). The statutory definition of “real property” encompasses these things, see Iowa Code § 427A.1(1)(a) (“Land and water rights.”), (b) (“Substances contained in or growing upon the land . . . .”), (c) (“Buildings, structures or improvements, any of which are constructed on or in the land, attached to the land . . . .”), (d) (“Buildings, structures, equipment, machinery or improvements, any of which are attached to the buildings, structures, equipment, machinery or improvements defined in paragraph “c” . . . .”), but it also includes other items, such as “[m]achinery used in manufacturing establishments,” id. § 427A.1(1)(e), and “computers,” id. § 427A.1(1)(j)(1). The latter two categories of property have had a special valuation scheme since 1995, see id. § 427B.17, but they are still defined as real property. Personal property is not subject to property tax in Iowa. See id. § 427A.2.
(emphasis mine). In order to become real property, the computer needs to be attached to the structure by more than just a power cord, so the usual laptop or desktop should be safe. However, any idea of a built-in flatscreen/docking station type of thing may be right out.

3) IOWA vs ALBERTS clarification on the rule against admission of the sexual history of an alleged rape victim to allow evidence of prior instances where the alleged victim claimed unwanted sexual contact occurred, when the instances occurred under circumstances which are factually suspect, for the purposes of establishing consent. The facts of the case: there was a bachelorette party at a local bar, with the alleged victim in attendance, along with the defendant, who was her boyfriend's uncle. The parties knew each other, and not just from family gatherings: some time earlier they'd been at the same bar together, where the defendant and the victim had engaged in some "dirty dancing," and all three of them had sat in the defendant's truck smoking pot. At some point on this prior occasion, the alleged victim had unhooked her bra and strung it across the defendant's rear-view mirror. The boyfriend had retrieved it before they went home. This time around, there was (as is usual for a bachelorette party), a good deal of alcohol consumed. For some reason, instead of sticking with her party, the victim left with the defendant when the bar closed and ended up at the family's lake house. There, she threw up, then indicated she needed to sleep it off. With the defendant still in the room, she removed her skirt and climbed into bed. According to the opinion, she fell asleep, and woke up with the defendant engaging in sexual contact with her and eventually intercourse. She claimed she was frightened and pretended to be asleep through the entire ordeal. He claimed she kissed him and "moved her hips" in a manner connoting consent. The next morning, the defendant drove her home, where she showered. Her boyfriend showed up, she told him what happened, and he drove her to the hospital to report a rape.

At trial, to bolster his claim of consent, the defendant wanted to put into evidence an earlier incident in which the boyfriend's brother had "busted" the victim and another man skinny dipping together, with her arms around the guy. Upon discovery, she got out of the water crying, claiming “Thank God you saw me. I didn’t know what to do out there. . . . I couldn’t get away from him. I didn’t know what to do.” The man she was swimming with was prepared to testify that it was her idea to go skinny-dipping, and that nothing sexual had happened. The defendant claimed this evidence was important to his case because it supported his theory that the victim accused men of improper sexual conduct in order to shift blame away from her supposed infidelity. He also claimed this incident was particularly relevant because it reflected on the credibility of the only other witness to the alleged rape - the victim herself.

Interpreting the rape shield law, the district court sustained most of the State’s motion in limine and specifically excluded any evidence pertaining to the skinny-dipping incident. The court also excluded any testimony which described the victim’s character as flirtatious or promiscuous. However, the court allowed the jury to hear evidence that the victim had engaged in “dirty dancing” with Alberts a few weeks before the alleged sexual abuse, smoked marijuana with him in the cab of his semi-truck, and removed her bra and hung it on his rear-view mirror.

In so ruling, the district court judge stated:
I’m not going to permit testimony or evidence concerning [R.M.’s] mental health or past sexual comments or activities, with the exception of [the event where she danced with Alberts a few weeks prior to the alleged sexual assault].

The court also made the following additional comments regarding its ruling:
if R.M. gets into her virtue, if that’s the right term - - I’m referring now to the potential testimony that she had never cheated on her boyfriend - - that could open the door to some of these other matters that have been raised.

When asked whether testimony that she would never “cheat” on her boyfriend would open the door to this excluded evidence, the court stated “Not necessarily. I can’t tell you right now. It depends on the context that comes in.”

The Defendant took what evidence he could get in and argued that the sexual contact was consensual, and that the victim was only denying consent in order to preserve her relationship with the boyfriend. This argument was unsuccessful, and the jury convicted Alberts of third-degree sexual abuse.

The Supreme Court noted that "Rule 5.412 prohibits introduction of reputation or opinion evidence of a complainant’s “past sexual behavior” and substantially limits admissibility of evidence of specific instances of a complainant’s past sexual behavior. Rule 5.412(d) defines “past sexual behavior” as “sexual behavior other than the sexual behavior with respect to which sexual abuse is alleged.”" Although all parties to the skinny-dipping incident specifically denied any sexual contact, the Court found that the incident did constitute "past sexual behavior" under the meaning of the Rule. However, the Court also recognized that in prior caselaw it had determined that prior false claims of sexual activity do not fall within the coverage of our rape-shield law.(“Because a false allegation of sexual activity is not sexual behavior, such statements fall outside both the letter and the spirit of the rape-shield law.”).

The Court noted that a rule outlining admissibility in these circumstances is vital: the purpose of a rape shield law is to keep evidence of prior sexual behavior entirely out of the purview of the jury, so the court can't simply let the jury hear the evidence of the past conduct and determine for itself whether the past sexual behavior was a "false allegation of sexual activity" or not. Instead, it must make that determination first, and then only allow prior false accusations to be heard within the confines of the courtroom. The Court articulated the showing needed to be made by a defendant wishing to enter evidence of a past incident involving an alleged victim under the auspices of a false allegation of sexual activity:
"[A] criminal defendant wishing to admit such evidence must first make a threshold showing to the trial judge outside the presence of the jury that (1) the complaining witness made the statements and (2) the statements are false, based on a preponderance of the evidence."

The Court noted that even when this facial showing of admissibility is made, the State may still rebut or attack the evidence offered by the Defendant once it got before the jury.

Based on this, the Court ruled:
"In the present case, the trial court sustained the State’s motion in limine without explanation. Presumably, the court found the skinny-dipping incident to be “past sexual behavior.” However, the court failed to take the additional step of determining whether R.M. made a false claim of sexual misconduct relating to the incident, which would make the rape-shield law not applicable."
After dealing briefly with the issues of whether the evidence of the skinny dipping incident would be more prejudicial to the alleged victim than probative toward the issue of consent (it wouldn't), and whether the skinny-dipping incident was relevant to the charge at hand (it was), the Court noted that precluding the incident from going in front of the jury unfairly prejudiced the Defendant from making his case for consent, and sent the case back down to the lower court. However, rather than ordering a whole new trial with the issue of admissibility of the skinny dipping incident to be determined by motion in limine, they only ordered a hearing on the admissibility issue, based on the interests of judicial economy, with a new trial to follow only if the evidence was wrongfully excluded. Rationale: If the incident wasn't wrongfully excluded under the standard articulated by the Supreme Court, then the trial wasn't tainted after all and the conviction can stand.

Okay, that wraps it up for the latest brain-bleed legal posting. Back to cute skirts, theater, and odd videos.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Just for Fun

Daniel Radcliffe appears on Extras:

Coffee-snorting moment: "May I have my johnny back? Please."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

More Theater Blogging - Updated

Too good to relegate to the comments section - check out the review:
It was no surprise that the majority of the audience was younger than 12.

That meant the actors had their work cut out for them because for children, a show has to be entertaining from beginning to end.

From the minute the curtain went up, the performers captured and kept the children's attention.

The costumes alone were candy for the eyes -- sparkling sequins, elaborate hairdos in the brightest of colors and funky dresses.

Stealing the spotlight were Ben Bentler as the all-so-animated Cat in the Hat; Amanda Murray, as geeky Gertrude McFuzz; and Chris Carpenter as faithful, trustworthy Horton the Elephant.

. . .

The music alone keeps it hopping -- "Oh, The Thinks You Can Think" and "Green Eggs & Ham" are among the popular tunes.

Both the music and choreography shined. . . . And if the smiles on the children's faces were any indication, the show will have a very successful run.

A pic:

I was going to go tonight, but I keep sneezing. Stefanie, I think that wasn't allergies last night, but a cold. 'Cause I don't have allergies. And I think I've now got a cold. Which I emphatically do NOT want to give to anyone in the cast, so I think I'm quarantining myself at home tonight and I'll try to catch you Thursday.

Seussical the Musical

Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Co-Conceived by Eric Idle
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Directed by Jeff Shields

Oct 5, 6, 7, 8 and 12, 13, 14*, 15
Thu at 7 pm, Fri/Sat at 8 pm, Sun at 2 pm
* two shows on Oct 14, 2 pm and 8 pm

Englert Civic Theatre
Downtown Iowa City

Following in the footsteps of our hit A Year with Frog and Toad, we are
again working with the Children's Museum to provide quality entertainment for children of all ages!

Seussical the Musical is the whimsical musical adaptation of the works of Dr. Seuss, beloved children's book author and illustrator. Audiences will be delighted as their favorite Seuss characters, such as Horton the Elephant and the Cat in the Hat, will spring to vibrant musical life on the Englert Stage.

In addition, all summer long at the Iowa Children's Museum, children and families can watch as the Seussical Set is built from the ground up and even participate in the decoration and design. "We are providing an opportunity for all of the community to have an active role in this show," says Chris Okiishi, producer of the show. "Everyone who visits the museum over the summer can see their work eventually on the Englert stage."

Sure to be a sellout, tickets will be available at the Englert Box Office starting in April. Creating Seussical at the Iowa Children's Museum opens June 2006.

More details at the City Circle website.

Catch the article in the Press-Citizen. I love this quote:
Chris Carpenter is delighted to have the role as Horton.

"It's the part that I really, really wanted," said Carpenter, 44.

Why did he want the role so bad?

Well, for starters Horton is a really good guy and to top it off, he gets to hatch an egg on stage, Carpenter said.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the egg bit alone will be worth the price of admission. . . .


1) I saw this on Mathman's site and had to share:

2) I notice Des Moines is attempting to keep up with the larger metropolii (metropolises?) in having a "nightlife" website and sending twenty-somethings with cameras all over downtown bars in search of an interesting picture. Here's one of last night's contributions:

3) The Iowa Supreme Court posted new decisions yesterday, which I started to blog on but the post got swallowed by cyberspace and I've not had the time to recreate it. (Which I suppose is the 'net version of "the dog ate my homework"). I'll do something about it Monday, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Okay, Time to Throw My Two Cents In

There's a bit of a blog kerfluffle going on about Iowa Ennui's post on the political Appel family. Key quotes:

You're not going to know my name, but I'm going to run the show

How many jobs and insider tracks into Iowa Democratic politics does this guy need?

. . . .

The State Judicial Nominating Commission on Tuesday announced its three finalists for an upcoming vacancy on the Iowa Supreme Court.
The finalists are: . . . Brent Appel, 54, of Ackworth.

Culver's most trusted advisers have come into his life in a variety of ways. . . Des Moines lawyer Brent Appel, a Culver adviser who ran Sen. Culver's 1980 campaign....

Staci Appel . . . . is running to represent Senate District 37 which consists of Madison County, Warren County and a portion of Dallas County. ...

. . . .

Brent and Staci Appel are like most young parents with four children – busy! Theodore Appel (Teddy to his family) is 7 and loves football and dinosaurs; Jacob is 6 and is also into football as well as cars; Isaac is 3 and can tell you what every tool in the garage is and what it is for; and Olivia, 2, likes Dora the Explorer and playing with her dolls.

It’s a good thing Olivia likes to play with dolls because she might not see her parents very often with this kind of political agenda.

NOTE: the middle sections were quotes from press releases in various news sources about the Appels.

Next, State 29 commented:
Iowa Ennui has a post about Brent and Staci Appel that speaks for itself by the end.

My god, they have four children aged 7 and under. And she's running for the Statehouse? She must really hate being around the kids.

Then, Simplicity (formerly Bob) reacted:
State29 is so irrelevant based on his hatred of all things female and non-white (did I mention poor?) that I don't read him. It's just upsetting to me that in this day and age, someone who purports his opinions to be valid could be looked at as legitimate. He's a caricature.

Enter Iowa Ennui. She's pretty smart. Even when I disagree with her, I think she's presented her case in a fairly respectful manner. Until today.

Why do I mention these two in the same post?

Today Iowa Ennui suggested that a woman (and her husband) care more about a political "agenda" than they do their own small children. Of course, State backed that up with a few hallelujahs, because we already KNOW it's a PROVEN FACT that women should not be elected to office. When women even step a foot outside their own kitchen, it is considered a cardinal sin, at least in the Bible of State. Lest they be called a "C". Of course, State not only gave her props, he posted his even more disrespectful post. Who would have guessed.
. . .
I am so surprised at the absolute misogyny of Ennui's post that I felt I had to try to rebut, as feeble of an attempt as it is. I wonder if the assumption that women are crappy moms when they attempt to run for public office can be equally applied to men. I wonder if that opinion is so ingrained in the minds of the right that they don't even realize how sexist it is.

State responds:
Apparently, you can't hold an opinion on the matter without being labelled as somebody who hates women.

From Bobagain's post:
I envy this woman. I think she's a better mom because of what she's doing.

No, she's not.

A better mom = not being around the kids?

A better mom means putting her political agenda or aspirations ahead of her children's earliest years?

A better mom means hiring nannies or warehousing them in daycare?

A better mom means a revolving door of young and underpaid hired help in the house?

A better mom means that the first time she sees her kids at the end of the day, it's after they've gone to sleep?

When a kid gets sick in the spring, is State Senator Mommy going to stay home and care for them? Or is lawyer daddy with all his billable hours and unflexible schedule going to stay home?

If you have the means, why wouldn't one of the parents stay home with the kids?

Can't it wait another 10 or 15 years when the kids are into high school or college? By then, they'd really be proud of mom achieving her goals and would appreciate it more. Wouldn't they? And wouldn't she?

And what's more important for kids? A parent being around, or a parent being gone?

Those of you with kids, why don't you try telling any child aged 7 or younger that mommy is going to be gone all day and probably most of the evening for several months of the year? Those kids will be pissed off. I guarantee it.

And it doesn't matter the political party involved here. I've bashed Jim Nussle repeatedly in the past for moving to DC, pulling a Newt Gingrich, and replacing Wife 1.0 with Wife 2.0. I think that's wrong, too.

The Political Madman comments:
She mischaracterizes the previous post a bit, saying "Today Iowa Ennui suggested that a woman (and her husband) care more about a political "agenda" than they do their own small children." I think that's a bit too much. She also suggests that the whole conversation is misogynistic.

I don't think it is. Don't get me wrong, I'm not accusing the Appels of neglecting their children. But when two parents are trying to balance nomination for a seat on the Iowa Supreme Court, a law practice, a campaign for state senate, and four children that have yet to reach the third grade, I think it's fair to ask "Is this really going to work?"

Am I a misogynist for thinking that?

Okay, so here's my opinion:

It is not inherently misogynistic to be concerned about the amount of time that a couple spends with their small children. Misogyny (in a loose sense, not meaning the hatred of women but the stereotyping thereof) enters into the picture when one automatically looks at the woman as the culprit and questions her ability to mother while working, because obviously the kids should come first. Inherent in this attitude is a concurrent presumption that the father's work is either more important or somehow more valuable than the time that he spends with said kiddies, and a conspicuous lack of questioning his ability to father.

In reviewing the postings to date, I don't find Iowa Ennui's piece to be misogynistic or sexist. She doesn't focus on the woman as the one who is neglectful, but the couple as a whole. State, however, does cross the line with his first post. She hates the kids? If that's the case, what's his busy schedule - just another way to say "I love you?" He pulls it back a bit with the second post. Yes, he still lists a bunch of things that are focused on her, but he does wrap it up by saying his concerns are about the two of them equally.

In case you're wondering, I am aware that there's a whole issue of money involved with any decision about who should spend time with the kids. I am also aware that it appears that his career is far more financially lucrative. But don't you think that's more a private economic matter for the two of them (and perhaps their financial counselor if they have one) to work out? I don't think it's any defense to claim "but that's why I presumed she was neglectful and not him - of course he can't stay home." Might I suggest that, with a little creative accounting, he should consider stepping aside for a while to give her a shot? Either way, it's not relevant to the greater issue.

So, to answer the Madman's question: no, you're not misogynistic, in my opinion. Neither is Bob out of line by pointing out the sexist assumptions that are inherent with pointing the finger at the wife. State skirts the line, as he's so fond of doing, but I think a close reading of his second post shows that while he's critical of her for seeking the office, he's not presuming she should necessarily be the one to give ground in her career.

Side note: am I right in finding the word "misogynist" has different connotations from "sexist"? One to me implies active hatred, while the other connotes simple prejudice or stereotyping.


'Course, then there's this post on Leo's Stuff:

Not that I'm one to cause trouble or anything . . .

Yesterday, Brian at the Iowa Voice blog posted on more reprehensible tactics by the Westboro Baptist Church. According to news sources, they've graduated from being highly offensive to an off-the-charts and over-the-top repugnancy:
A Kansas-based group that says "God hates fags" plans to picket the funerals of the Amish girls killed by a disturbed man in Lancaster County, Pa.

The Westboro Baptist Church -- described as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League -- has made a name for itself by picketing the funerals of U.S. troops killed in Iraq. The troops are dying as punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality, the group says.

The Westboro group says the Amish school girls were "killed by a madman in punishment for Gov. Ed Rendell's blasphemous sins against Westboro Baptist Church.

"Gov. Ed Rendell -- speaking and acting in his official capacity to bind the State of Pennsylvania -- slandered and mocked and ridiculed and condemned Westboro Baptist Church on national Fox TV," the group says on its website.

"Rendell also revealed a conspiracy to employ the State's police powers to destroy WBC in order to silence WBC's Gospel message. Co-conspirators identified by Rendell included state officials, citizens, lawyers, legislators and media," the website says.

Westboro Baptist Church said it is "continuing to pray for even worse punishment upon Pennsylvania."

A number of states have passed laws to keep groups like Westboro away from grieving families at funerals, but last month, a federal judge ruled that a Kentucky law barring protests within 300 feet of military funerals and memorial services is too broad and may not be enforced.

The group eventually agreed to refrain from the protest, but only in exchange for radio air time:
The controversial anti-homosexual Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., has canceled its plans to stage a protest at the funerals of the five Amish girls executed in their Pennsylvania school, a church official said Wednesday.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of church's pastor, told the group canceled the protests in exchange for an hour of radio time Thursday on syndicated talk-show host Mike Gallagher's radio program.

Brian comments:
I can barely understand the defense of their freedom of speech when they go to protest military funerals, because they can claim that's political speech, and it's clearly protected. But going to protest a funeral like this, I don't see how anyone can make an excuse saying it's ok.

I predict we'll eventually see solid legislation against picketing funerals that is upheld by the Courts as a reasonable time, manner and place restriction. First, although the church's ranting is fairly labeled as hate speech, it's not the content but the method that is the most objected to in this context. Second, there are alternative channels that will allow potential picketers to get their message out even if this type of picketing is restricted. So unless the courts come up with something else, it should be just a matter of refining statute language to ensure the Courts don't see it as too broad. I just wish they'd move a bit faster. In the meantime, I hate the fact they've been given the airtime they want via this method of extortion. I wonder why any real churches out there aren't deciding to take up the cause of fighting this hate speech being spread in the name of their religion? I'd think it would be very effective to have a congregation devoted to showing up to these pickets in droves to outnumber the Westboro group and utterly diffuse the hate with a message of love. Just my opinion.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Theater Blogging

By Lionel Bart
Directed by Barbara Buddin and David Evans

September 21 7:00 pm
September 22, 8:00 pm
September 23, 2:30 pm and 8:00 pm
September 24, 2:30 pm

All Performances will be at the Englert Civic Theatre.

Tickets will go on sale three weeks prior to opening night.

A musical adaptation of the classic tale by Charles Dickens, Oliver! is set in London in the Mid 1800's. It follows the adventures of the young Oliver Twist as he tries to find a home after being kicked out of a work house and sold into servitude.

Check out the cast list on the ICCT website. Seeing Joshue in a hairpiece doing a Fagin voice? That alone should be worth the price of admission. . .

Bring Out your Dead

Over on the Volokh Conspiracy, they're taking comments about whether or not a cause of action should exist for defaming the dead. Exerpts from the Washington Post editorial that sparked the commentary:
Give the Dead Their Due

Elvis Presley was a pedophile. Queen Victoria, a lesbian. Abraham Lincoln, a gay adulterer. Winston Churchill, a murderous conspirator.

These are all "facts" published in recent years about famous people, and in each case such claims would normally bring charges of libel per se -- a legal term signifying defamation so serious that damages are presumed. However, these statements also share one other important element: They were all published after the subjects had died. As a result, the publishers are protected by the longstanding rule that you cannot defame the dead (which, in practical terms, means you can). Once Elvis has left the living, you can say anything you want about him. No matter how malicious, untrue or vile.

Indeed, while most people are raised not to speak ill of the dead, the law fully supports those who do. Under the common-law rules governing defamation, a reputation is as perishable as the person who earned it. It is a rule first expressed in the Latin doctrine actio personalis moritur cum persona ("a personal right of action dies with the person"). The English jurist Sir James Stephen put it more simply in 1887, "The dead have no rights and can suffer no wrongs." In other words, you're fair game as soon as you die -- even if writers say viciously untrue things about you and your life.

The question of whether the dead can be defamed came up recently in a most unlikely way: The family of John Dillinger sued over a depiction of the famous bank robber at the John Dillinger Museum in Hammond, Ind. The museum describes Dillinger as a cop killer, but his relatives note (correctly) that Dillinger was only charged with killing a police officer during his robbery of the First National Bank and Trust in East Chicago, Ind., on Jan. 15, 1934. He died before standing trial.

Disputes such as that over Dillinger -- his family, unable to sue for defamation, had to rely instead on a state law that protects public figures from the commercial use of their images -- serve mostly to remind us of the grossly unfair and unnecessary rule that allows people to savage the reputations of the dead. . . .

Count me in on the "unconvinced" side.

First, presuming for a moment a cause of action does lie, I'm not quite certain who should be considered the plaintiff. The article correctly points out that pain and suffering inflicted upon an individual are generally cut short by the death of the deceased. This is true whether the tort at issue is a car accident, a fraud, or defamation, and whether the damages are for physical or emotional injury. The idea is, once you're dead, you can't be hurt anymore. Your estate or next of kin can often sue for the injuries inflicted prior to your untimely demise. In cases of wrongful death, the difference between the value your estate would have had if you'd been allowed to live out your normal life span can be also be considered in determining how much money should go to your survivors. And, of course, your nearest and dearest might have their own claim for the loss of your consortium and companionship. But direct damages are pretty well capped. Pros: 1) It's a nice, bright line rule, no fudging around. Living = damages, dead = none. 2) It recognizes the reality that, once dead, you really don't notice much. Cons: 1) In practical terms, it often results that a death case is worth less in terms of settlement than one in which the plaintiff will live out a normal life span, albeit horribly maimed. 2) As a society, we like to believe that there is a remedy for any injury, in compensation if not by correction. It therefore strikes us as wrong that there could be such an injury and no corresponding compensation or correction available, simply because the deceased happens to be dead.

Where this rule is concerned, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. It may offend our sense of justice that a defamation can go unanswered simply because the deceased happens to be dead, but because they are dead they are incapable of feeling pain, disgust, anger or remorse. We could speculate about what they might have felt based on the testimony of the living heirs, but that's inherently messy. To take an example from the article, what if one of Queen Victoria's decendants believes it's hilarious she was portrayed as a lesbian, and that she would approve of the characterization, and another is shocked and appalled? Which is the jury to use as a benchmark? To open up the courts to allow a hypothetical injury based on speculation as to what the deceased would have felt will cause extensive, expensive litigation, which in the end will do much to stem creative works and do little to enrich anyone but the lawyers involved. Strictly speaking, I suppose I shouldn't bitch much about that whole "enriching the lawyers" thing, but it needs to be said.

There is a better argument to be made if the deceased's relatives are designated the true plaintiffs. After all, it's really their feelings that are being hurt. Further, it negates the need to engage in endless speculation about the plaintiffs' thoughts and motives - we can simply ask the living about how the alleged defamation has affected them. Those who were injured emotionally may have a cause of action.

This doesn't completely obviate the problem, though. Is there a requisite degree of consanguinity one must have with the deceased to bring a cause of action, or can Victoria's cousin's husband's sister's granddaughter's brother-in-law suffice, if he's particularly horrified at the idea of lesbian activity in the family line? And if you allow a cause of action for being mentally traumatized by an intangible, albeit real, injury to another person, couldn't that argument be extended to the living? What if the most rabid supporters of the president feel pain at how he is portrayed in a fictional work? Could they bring a suit to redress that "injury"? What if they're a distant cousin, or one of his daughters?

Finally, anyone involved with the tort system can tell you that pain and suffering, mental anguish, and any of those other intangible damages cause the most consternation when assessing cases, from both sides. What is an insult worth? In defaming the living, we can look at loss of reputation in the community and how it might affect the income of the plaintiff, or counseling costs the plaintiff may incur to cope with the trauma. With the dead, it's generally not so simple. The famous people cited by the article may have some sort of estate that generates income for the heirs, which could show a tangible impact from a particularly virulent defamation. This might be the best case for allowing some sort of cause of action, because the "defamation" has inflicted a measurable injury on the income of a living person or trust. But what about the not-so-famous, or where no economic impact is felt? Damages then become a purely subjective affair. The heirs might seek counseling and feel genuinely hurt by the defamation, but it's a tangential injury at best, not one inflicted directly upon them.

I understand the author's point in feeling that there should be some sort of legal remedy against defaming anyone, even if that person has been dead for some time. I suspect, however, that the concern is more consternation at the dearth of historical knowledge of the American public rather than the actual feelings of the deceased. Regardless, while the idea that once a person is dead they can be defamed with impunity seems intuitively wrong, in practical terms this cause of action would create more problems than it solves.