Friday, June 30, 2006


The Register comments on the red-light cameras in Clive. Their take apparently boils down to: if you follow the law, you shouldn't have to worry about it. Never mind the fact that the State doesn't have to prove that you were actually driving the car at the time. Never mind the fact that the ostensible reasons for the big-brotheresque cameras - reducing accidents - is demonstrably false. Never mind the fact that the scheme could constitute a violation of some of those pesky constitutional rights, or basic theories of justice like innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But then they add this quote:
Here's an idea. Instead of feeling violated by Big Brother's camera, how about just stopping on red?

No pictures are taken, which means nobody's civil liberties are trashed. Nobody gets T-boned and carted off in an ambulance.

We're all free to worry about something really intrusive, like having our phone calls monitored.

I find that rather ironic, as the majority in favor of the monitoring uses the same rationale: if you're not breaking the law by being involved with terrorist activities, you shouldn't have to worry about things like 4th Amendment violations or separation of powers. Hmm. Is it just me, or is a large segment of the population deciding they actually like the idea of a totalitarian society? When did we decide to rename it the Bill of Really Good Suggestions that Don't Work in Reality?

I may be rather idealistic, but I believe there are ways of making some improvements while still adhering to the fundamental principles of the Constitution. Red-light camera prosecutions aren't illegal per se, but I'd prefer they either prove who was driving, or stick to a ticket for something like "aiding and abetting a red-light runner by allowing them to use your car." Phone tapping is legal with a warrant, which is easily obtained and can be done even retroactively so the "there's no time to get a warrant" argument simply doesn't hold water. Protecting the rights of the accused, even if they are accused of behavior in which you wouldn't personally engage, ensures that your own rights are protected if you ever find yourself in the position of being falsely accused of a crime. Why is this so difficult to comprehend?


Meanwhile, I'm heading to the pool in my new bikini today. I'm taking my sister, and we're bringing chick magazines and sun-in for our hair, and then we're going to have lunch and bargain-hunt at resale stores for her husband's birthday.

I've noticed that stressing about job searches and planning for the future is totally consuming my life these days, so I've made a pact with myself: Every day, I am going to do one thing that I would be jealous of if I were working. After the resume's been revised and job sites surfed, I will take a nap, or go to the pool,or see a matinee, or visit a friend for coffee in the middle of the day. That way, once I'm back chained to a desk, I won't kick myself for wasting perfectly good free time while I had it. For those of you who can't take time off to enjoy the sunshine, here's a quiz for a mini-break:

You Are Midnight

You are more than a little eccentric, and you're apt to keep very unusual habits.
Whether you're a nightowl, living in a commune, or taking a vow of silence - you like to experiment with your lifestyle.
Expressing your individuality is important to you, and you often lie awake in bed thinking about the world and your place in it.
You enjoy staying home, but that doesn't mean you're a hermit. You also appreciate quality time with family and close friends.

UPDATE: Given the weather, the pool was substituted with shopping. Just in the interest of accuracy.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Things I've Learned on the Internet Lately

Macaques are kinky.

But bat-eating centipedes are just scary.

How to make a dry ice bomb.

The Yeti Hair craze has hit the open market.

This guy has way too much time on his hands.

It's not a prank, it's art. (NSFW)

66 Ways to Save Money? Hah! There are 1000 Ways to Open a Beer Bottle. I ask you: which is truly more productive?

Apparently, the LA Times is using Websense to censor its internet feeds. My favorite quote: " is allowed—but is indeed blocked as a security measure." Well, I suppose centerfolds don't have a lot of places to hide weapons. Boing Boing has more. (Ed. note: not more places to hide weapons. More on the story.)

What happens when you outsource the building of your playground to the local mental health institution.

Jesus band-aids.

No, honey, I'm not looking at porn. Why are you always so suspicious? (It's for sale here, if ya want one.)

This is for kids only. Seriously. No, it doesn't come with a little red riding crop.

Many have speculated on what the lasting effects will be to Chinese society from the shortage of females as a result of China's one-child policy . . . now we know.

Fresh Law

The Iowa Court of Appeals posted new opinions yesterday, and the Iowa Courts online has revived the handy "Summary of Most Recent Opinions" feature that allows a quick skimming of most of the opinions.

In the Interests of DJ addresses whether surgery should be performed on a child in foster care over the objections of the natural mother. The child suffers from familial cateracts, and while glasses can correct his vision to 20/70 in his left eye and 20/40 in his right. He's having some problems in school for reasons that may or may not be related to vision - the record is apparently unclear. Regardless, both the State and his foster parent wished to have cateract surgery performed, contending the need to provide an education for DJ and asserting that the cateracts are interfering with his school performance. His non-custodial mother, identified as "Heather," objected to the surgery, but gave no reason beyond the fact that as the natural parent she should have the right to make medical decisions that are not life-threatening. The surgery carries the risk of "blindness, glaucoma, scarring, and retinal detachment. Death resulting from the anesthesia is also a possible risk." The benefits include "better vision and depth perception, reduced glare, and improved ability to participate in sports and outdoor activities." The juvenile court found the risks involved with the surgery minute, and ordered the surgery on the left eye to proceed, with the surgery on the right eye to also be performed if recommended by the attending ophthalmologist.

The Court of Appeals did not feel that Heather had a unilateral right as a natural parent to make non-threatening medical decisions for her son when he was outside her custody, citing an earlier case in which it upheld a decision for a tonsillectomy on foster kids over the objections of their non-custodial father, as it was in the children's best interest. However, it felt there was a significant question as to the wisdom of surgery, and whether it was in DJ's best interests:
"Neither ophthalmologist actually recommended D.J. have surgery. One stated she did not have a complete medical history and that a treating physician would need more information to make a recommendation as to surgery. She also stated that either decision, to have the surgery or not have the surgery, would be reasonable. . . .

The other doctor stated he could conclude with reasonable medical certainty that D.J.’s eyesight will worsen with time. He could not say whether D.J.’s sight would improve with surgery at this time, but if surgery was postponed until D.J. was fifteen or sixteen, there may be less of a chance his sight would improve . . .Ultimately, he thought D.J. would benefit from surgery, but stated that he would need to conduct a further examination to make a recommendation. He also stated he felt great caution needed to be taken.

Though we are not against the surgery, we hesitate to override a parent’s wishes without, at the very least, a medical recommendation. Therefore, given the physicians’ uncertainty and their unwillingness to offer an opinion without further examination, we must reverse the decision of the juvenile court which authorized surgery. However, in keeping with the best interests of the child and the interest of judicial economy, we remand to the juvenile court for further medical examination of the child and possible rehearing on the matter. We do not retain jurisdiction."

It should also be noted that the surgery carried no guarantees it would actually improve DJ's eyesight. Also, I found this quote from the second doctor rather telling:
"In this particular case, if, you know, when I saw [D.J.] for the first time, actually, it was—I think it was a foster mom who actually brought the patient in, and the foster mom, I had the impression that he or she didn’t even know that [D.J.] had the cataracts. If [D.J.] presented to me with his biological mother or father and if they said, doctor, I do not wish to take the risk, and I would like to observe, that would be reasonable, yes."

All in all, it seems like the best result was reached, given the ambiguities of the situation.

State v. Petra involves a reading of sentencing statutes. Iowa Code section 901.10 permits the modification of the sentencing scheme of sections 124.413 and 124.401 (drug possession charges) under certain circumstances:
1. A court sentencing a person for the person’s first conviction under section . . . 124.413 . . . may, at its discretion, sentence the person to a term less than provided by the statute if mitigating circumstances exist and those circumstances are stated specifically in the record.
2. Notwithstanding subsection 1, if the sentence under section 124.413 involves an amphetamine or methamphetamine offense under section 124.401, subsection 1, paragraph “a” or “b”, the court shall not grant any reduction of sentence unless the defendant pleads guilty. If the defendant pleads guilty, the court may, at its discretion, reduce the mandatory minimum sentence by up to one-third. If the defendant additionally cooperates in the prosecution of other persons involved in the sale or use of controlled substances, and if the prosecutor requests an additional reduction in the defendant’s sentence because of such cooperation,

In this case, the defendant had cooperated by acting as an informant, but it was not a first offense. The defendant still wanted the reduction of one-third the sentence, based on the "notwithstanding subsection 1" language. The argument was that clause completely negated all of subsection 1, including the requirement that the sentencing be in conjunction with a first offense. The Court disagreed:
Reading section 901.10 as a whole, as we must, we cannot agree with Petra’s tortured interpretation of the statute. The word “notwithstanding,” in the context of subsection two, means “despite.” Iowa Dist. Ct., 630 N.W.2d at 782. “Thus, in spite of what is allowed in subsection 1 concerning ‘reduction of sentence,’ subsection 2 sets up additional requirements for defendants convicted of a methamphetamine offense before such defendants may receive a ‘reduction in sentence.’” Id. (emphasis added). Thus, subsection 2 provides additional conditions for sentence reduction when a first-time offender commits certain methamphetamine and amphetamine offenses. It does not, as Petra suggests, remove the requirement that the crime be a first offense. In addition, a common sense reading of the plain language of subsection 2 leads us to conclude it applies only when the first-time offender commits an amphetamine or methamphetamine offense under sections 124.401(1)(a) or (b).

Petra was not a first-time offender and pled guilty to a violation of section 124.401(1)(c). Therefore, the district court correctly concluded the provisions of section 901.10 were not applicable to reduce the mandatory minimum sentence.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tuesday Quiz

Your Rising Sign is Sagittarius

Happy and upbeat, you are always optimistic.

Even when you're in a bad mood, people find you friendly.

On the flip side, you're very restless and bored easily.

You've been known to pick fights just for the fun of it.

You've got a great sense of humor and a quirky outlook on life.

Aggressive, wild, and unconventional, no one knows what you're going to do next.

Define "Aid"?

According to this NY Times article (reg. required; username-randommentality, password-password), prosecutors are trying a novel approach in a death case:
It looked like an ordinary family outing. A minivan stopped at a scenic overlook, a strip of blacktopped pavement that is little more than a wide spot on a one-lane road along the edge of a cliff. In the distance is the Hudson River. A hundred feet below is a forest as thick as when the Harriman family owned it a century ago.

The police say three things happened next. A man stepped out of the minivan, maybe to take a picture. His wife, inside with their two young daughters, put the transmission in gear. And the minivan drove off the cliff.

The woman, Hejin Han, 35, was killed on Wednesday as the minivan bounced down the rocky hillside in Bear Mountain State Park, about 50 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, and slammed into a tree. The two daughters, strapped into their car seats in the back, were not seriously injured.

Yesterday, the man who climbed out of the van before its plunge — Victor K. Han, 35, an architect from Staten Island — was charged with promoting a suicide attempt. The police maintain that Mr. Han knew that his wife was suicidal and "afforded her an opportunity" to kill herself.

By extrapolation, would he have been charged with the same thing if he'd gone to work and left her alone in their home, if she'd taken the opportunity to OD on Tylenol? The details are sketchy, so we've no clue what was said between the couple just prior to the incident. Obviously, if he was telling her precisely how to steer the van between the guardrails, or doing some weird frat-like chant of support (go, go, go), then the case may be more compelling. Absent that, I'm not sure how getting out of the van constituted actual "aid." Presuming the prosecution can show he was aware of her suicidal tendencies, at what point does inaction rise to the level of "aiding" her? And what is the State going to do with the fact the kids were in the car? Are they maintaining he wanted her to kill them as well? Or that he had an unusual level of faith in carseat safety?

A tragedy all around. At least the kids aren't seriously hurt.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Red Light, Green Light

The Des Moines Register has a story on the proposed red-light cameras in Clive. The gist:
Clive officials still plan to start snapping photos and ticketing red-light runners this summer even though the ACLU of Iowa is challenging the constitutionality of speeding cameras in Davenport.

"If you cross the line after the light turns red, smile and say, 'Cheese,' because you're going to get a $75 ticket," Clive City Manager Dennis Henderson said Wednesday after being told of the ACLU's action.

While the idea of a city investing money into a big-brotheresque system of surveillance primarily to increase revenue is nowhere near unique, I was rather intrigued that the City was so bold as to flatly state the revenue-gathering motive behind the cameras, rather than passing off the system as a safety device installed for the good of the public.

But the article becomes rather convoluted in trying to briefly outline the legal issues surrounding camera tickets:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa announced Wednesday that it was defending a Davenport driver, who received a speeding ticket in his mailbox after an automatic camera snapped photos of his vehicle.

Ben Stone, ACLU of Iowa executive director, said he filed a motion asking for dismissal of the ticket because it violates state speeding laws, thus violating the constitutional rights of the accused.

I think what they're getting at is that criminal law, being statutory, must be strictly construed to adhere to the statutes as written, with a sufficient degree of definiteness to alert citizens as to the nature and extent of the prohibition being codified. I believe this portion of the concept of procedural due process was labeled by my notes from crimlaw class as the "you can't just make shit up rule." But the way it's phrased here almost makes it sound like a violation of Iowa's speeding laws equates to a violation of the constitution of Iowa (or the US, I can't quite figure which), which is confusing at best. On a side note, I also think the ticket charges could be vulerable to attack via sufficient identification issues, should the photos be clear enough to identify the car but not the driver.

But more interesting is the quote from a Davenport officer:
"The bottom line," Struckman said, "is I don't think you have any constitutional right to endanger another person."

By extrapolation, then, all civil rights to proper identification, prior notice, speedy trial, and other due process rules are moot if the charge purports that the defendant endangered someone? I'm not so sure the courts will agree with that one. Though he did succeed in bringing the requisite "it's a safety issue" party line back to the subject:
The objective of using the cameras is to reduce the number of accidents, he said. Still, $220,000 in revenue from the tickets has been used on improving public safety and putting more officers on the street. And the idea is catching on in several other Iowa cities, Struckman said.

"I am not an advocate of the Big-Brother system," he said, "but I am if it gets people to drive accordingly."

The difficulty: Studies have shown that the cameras actually increase the rate of accidents at intersections.
Since the District of Columbia installed its first red light camera in 1999, The Washington Post has championed use of photo enforcement technology on both its editorial and news pages. Now, five years into the program, the District's largest newspaper has discovered that accidents are up significantly as a result of their use.

A comparison of accidents at camera intersections before and after they were installed produced the following results:

Accident Type19982004Change

The accident doubling effect is not a statistical anomaly, happening in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004. In 2003 accidents did increase, but by less than 100 percent.

Camera proponents often argue that the devices create a "halo effect" that spreads improved driving habits throughout the city, including intersections where red light cameras are not installed. In the District, accidents increased citywide by 61 percent. Camera-free intersections experienced an additional 64 percent in accidents overall, a 54 percent increase in fatal and serious injury accidents and a 17 percent rise in t-bone collisions.

A roundup of studies finding similar results is here, showing seven separate findings in cities showing accident increases following red-light camera installations in On the other hand, a synthesis of studies here argues that while rear-end accidents are increased, there is some evidence that right-angle types of accidents might be decreased by the system, and opines that the decrease in right-angle accidents may be sufficient monetary and safety benefit to outweigh the increase in rear-end collisions.

I suspect that, going by a strictly economic analysis, the net result for a city is likely to be positive, particularly when you include the fine revenues into the monetary mix along with the savings from some of the right-angle collisions. However, I think it's disingenuous to argue that the safety benefits are clear.

Monday Quiz

What Your Soul Really Looks Like

You are quite expressive and thoughtful. You see the world in a way that others are blind to.

You are a grounded person, but you also leave room for imagination and dreams. You feet may be on the ground, but you're head is in the clouds.

You believe that people see you as larger than life and important. While this is true, they also think you're a bit full of yourself.

Your near future is all about change, but in very small steps. The end of the journey looks far, but it's much closer than you realize.

For you, love is all about caring and comfort. You couldn't fall in love with someone you didn't trust.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Theater Blogging

Dreamwell has it's Des Moines Fringe Fest schedule up:

MA for Mature Audiences
by Gregory Aldrich, Matthew Brewbaker, and Dawn Wittke-King
directed by Matthew Brewbaker and Dawn Wittke-King
July 20, 8:00 pm; July 21, 6:30 pm; July 22, 8:00 pm; July 23, 3:30 pm

13th & Walnut (commercial building on SW corner; west side) Des Moines
Dreamwell presents a set of original one act plays at the Iowa Fringe Festival.

The full schedule is on the Fringe Fest website.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tuesday Quiz

Eyes on Art. Some of them are simple, others need a bit more extrapolation. I got 8/10. How about you?

Saturday, June 17, 2006


about the prolonged absence. I've had to go into lurk mode for a while. Here's the scoop, for those of you who know me:

1) The 9th was the last day at work, and I had to spend a couple weeks prior to that cleaning up all my files for transfer. All the things I had in the back of my mind that needed to be done had to either actually be done, or put into the notes so the next victim attorney to take the file would have the info to do with as he/she pleased. I then had to separate out the files between ones that were fairly no-brainer and could go to the new guy vs. ones that were volitile and required significant babysitting and should probably go to my boss. Then, I had to field all the inevitable questions: a) Why Chicago? (I am originally from the 'burbs and have significant ties to the area); b) Where's the new job (I have no idea yet, but my lease is up in July and I'm not waiting another year); 3) Where's the new apartment (with friends, until I have an income). I was also trying to politely hound my references to get them to me so I can apply for admission by motion to Illinois' bar. (I still need that form, Not the Moonbat. I ain't kidding. I know where you live.) There was also the packing of the office, particularly the cleaning of that one drawer where dead pens, rubberbands, and loose change went to die. Turning it upside down into a box ended up being the most effective method. Oh, and the cleaning of the email inbox. Loads of fun. Finally, there were the obligatory goodbye lunches.

2) Once that was accomplished, I was ready to take the weekend off and head for the city on Monday to start pounding the pavement, to return Friday (yesterday) for rehearsals on Dreamwell's Fringe Fest piece. I went out to dinner with friends the night of the 9th, and ended up staying out until 3 or so watching movies. An auspicious start. . . until an hour or so later when I started getting frantic calls from the homestead. A sibling was in the hospital in a coma. Details aren't mine to share, but death was nearly involved. Fortunately, it looks like recovery is well on the way, and Sibling went home late last week. However, there were further developments involving family members and general furor, and the phone calls still haven't really stopped flying, though I try to stay under the radar whenever possible. This is all cryptic, I know, but email me if you know the players and I can be a tad more forthcoming. It's been a juxtaposition of Crisis and Drama with fully capital letters. Extremely draining, and I'm still in recovery.

So, now I've had a day to regroup, and I'll look at actually writing as well as reading. Upshot: sorry no posting, but I have a really, really good excuse and the blogger dog ate my homework and if I finish the posts by the end of the week could I still get half-credit?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Friday, June 09, 2006


from the Hot Chicks:
The instructions are simple. You type "(your name) needs" into Google and write down the first ten results. Some of mine were funny so I included a dozen.

On reflection, I thought this might be a viable alternative to the prognostigatory talents of the Magic Eight Ball. And with today my last day at work and the move pending, I could really use some insight into the future these days. So, I opened up Google to discover what it is I really need. Side note: I had to use "Kristin" rather than "Kris" because there's apparently some guy out there whose name is "Kris Needs," which kind of obviates the whole point of the exercise.

I found some of it good advice:
Kristin needs a family who can provide her with nurturance, consistency and love.
Kristin needs to move.
(Cue move music commonly associated with a sign from heaven.)
Kristin needs monthly prayer and financial support.
(Ed: especially that last part. No, seriously, I'll take donations. . . .)
Kristin needs a hug.
Kristin needs a job.
(Hey, I asked for advice, not a virtual nagging. I'm working on it, already.)
Kristin needs to simply relax for a few minutes.

Some of it got a little personal:
Kristin needs a good haircut to tame that wild ass hair.
Kristin needs lipgloss
Kristin needs to go to the orthodontist.

(Ed.: Hey, now.)

And even more personal:
Kristin needs to get some.
(Ed.: Like I don't know this?)

Some comments weren’t very nice:
Kristin needs to humble herself.
Kristin needs to mind her own business.
Kristin needs to be slapped.

Other ideas were just plain odd:
Kristin needs to stop dressing.
Kristin needs to stop obsessing over pubes.
(Ed.: WTF??)
Kristin needs to get in touch with her inner Creepiness.
Kristin needs a special computer just to contemplate how rich Bill Gates is.

A few offered me theater advice:
Kristin needs a shirt that says "Drama Queen."
Kristin needs to get her own show!
Kristin needs to take small, supporting roles.

But the one I really wondered about was this:
Kristin needs to wash her socks because she will need them on Sunday morning.

Is there something I should know about that fundraiser Sunday?