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.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Arrrrrr, Another PSA

Tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Reminder courtesy of Dave Barry's blog.

I'm thinkin' I'll be celebratin' with the mateys at an undisclosed downtown location that rhymes with "Ye Gold Map-it-All Crew Drub."

Things I've Learned on the Internet Lately

Regardless of any rumors to the contrary, having sex with a hedgehog does not cure impotence.

Boogers can be a valuable source of forensic evidence.

News flash: another male believes women are demonstrably stupider than men. And, of course, gleefully trumpeted his findings to the world, which by my calculations virtually ensures a lack of sex for the forseeable future. . . . . . . .

A piece of metal the size of a credit card with hexagons of varying sizes cut out is being sold as a wrench. If it works, will Clue games everywhere become obsolete?

A robot that sifts through cat litter and turns turds into Easter eggs. Oh, the possibilities.

Just in time for Christmas: the misfit toy photoshop contest. Forget a jack-in-the-box named "Charlie," they've got the "Neighborhood Stranger Playset," baby's first poaching kit, and fun gadgets like this.

While we're on the subject of toys, Gizmodo notes a chessboard with "built in cheat-sheets for airheads."

That's all I've got time for today.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet . . . or not.

One of those periodic rants against campus fundamentalist preachers appeared in the Daily Iowan this morning: Ranting on the Pentacrest disrespectful, lacks taste.
(Side note: am I the only one who finds it slightly ironic that while the DI has added "blog this" to its features, it simultaneously disabled the ability to hilight and click to copy text, making it impossible to insert the text from the article without going through the rigamarole of "copy all" and editing it down?)

Key quotes:
Enough is enough. I know I'm not alone when I say the radical Christian groups on the Pentacrest have worn out their welcome. I understand the rights to assembly, free speech, and free religion; I'm not looking to roll back anyone's civil liberties. But what ever happened to respect, decency, and taste?

I hardly doubt whether any woman or aborted fetus knowingly gave permission to these groups (come to think of it, I have seen very few women with these groups). If radical groups want to keep crowding our public space on the steps near the Old Capitol or in front of the Emma Goldman Clinic, I think the rest of us need to step up and use our guaranteed rights, too. I'm not talking about just setting up a pro-choice and anti-abortion boxing match on the streets - this is a nuanced and delicate issue that deserves far more consideration and respect than it is receiving. . . .

Why should we sit idly by while these groups misuse the Christian faith to scream from street corners at presumed sinners? This manipulation of the faith is sadly comparable to the Ku Klux Klan supporting racism and segregation with Old Testament verses. Women's rights and equal protection under the law (think same-sex marriage, immigration) are a Generation X responsibility, our civil-rights movement.

A moderate is not someone without the balls to be a fanatic; a fanatic is someone without the brains to think for herself or himself. This week, when the extremists try to cut you down, use your First Amendment rights to question their authority and purpose. Or, spout Matthew 6:1-8 back in their faces.

I remember being rather affronted by the particular brand of fundamentalism espoused by the campus "crusaders," particularly in that they rarely bothered to ascertain the viewpoints of the innocent bystanders they accosted, relying instead on the statistical probability that any given college student is going to hell and you might as well start with a presumption of guilt rather than let any of them slip between classes unchastized.

But after a while, I started to appreciate the show, settling in to watch students with degrees in comparative religion, philosophy, and the like decimate the group's logic while maintaining a level of civility apparently not dreamt of in their brand of dogma. Or watching the less-articulate try to out-yell and out-insult them, some of them stopping in for a daily scream-fest. It broke the monotony of studying, to sit on the lawn and listen to the verbal brawling, and provided a novelty in entertainment - you never really hear guests on Rush Limbaugh or PETA gatherings get an equal chance to out-shout the competition. After a while, it also teaches you which styles of debate are most effective in both engaging and persuading an audience. IMHO, the shouters engage the attention best, but its the logicians that persuade. Might I suggest teaming up?

Regardless, while I agree that these people should not be allowed to rant unanswered, you should approach the sport in the proper light to avoid the type of stress that will engender an early heart attack.

Good hunting.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Completely Addictive

Courtesy of Aprille, I've discovered the Antiriddle. Check it out. I'd post where I'm at, but I don't want to give spoilers, so email me and we can share the fun.

Road Trip: Monday Morning Photoblogging

A family trip out to my uncle's on Saturday, with the nephews in tow. We ended up splitting into two cars - somehow I got the kids while my brothers took the dog.

That's Michael's arm reaching out the window to pet the dog in the next car. He was absorbed in a video game pretty much the whole trip, which left me to entertain five-year-old Daniel. I tried to teach him the "alphabet game," but it didn't quite work out. He decided that we could acquire letters off his bag of Skittles and the can of pop his brother was drinking, rather than looking for them on road signs. Then he decided he'd found an "S" on the Skittles bag, so instead of competing with me to get through the alphabet, he'd just kind of park there and wait until I caught up. Meanwhile, he occupied himself by trying to get truck drivers to honk at us. Of course, I generally try to discourage truck drivers from honking at me, as I find it as annoying as the "hey, baby" shouts from construction sites. Now, I've got this kid asking them to bring it on. Grrreaaat.

We got there in the early afternoon and got settled in with snacks. It's a nice place, very secluded and they've done some awesome landscaping.

I caught Ellen making a gin and tonic in the kitchen. I made her mix me one, too, just as a game of Bocce ball broke out:

Basically, the "adults" carried the balls and various alcoholic beverages around the yard and saw how close we could get to winging the house, cars, or one of the dogs. But we did manage to get our own personal referee and ball fetcher:

So that's why people have kids. . . .

To be fair, the kids did get their revenge, to some degree:

And not just on the adults, the dogs also got it:

Wanna know what happens when a preschooler and a lab puppy both decide to grab onto something and say "mine" (each in their own language)?

The ninety-pound puppy wins. Of course, Daniel tried the "throwing myself down on the couch and crying dramatically" tactic. I told him if he could get himself to produce real tears, I might be able to get him a good part onstage. I'm such a mean aunt. Or I would be, if he hadn't immediately decided that might be a good idea, and started trying to show me that they were real tears and he could so cry on cue. I may be creating a monster.

At the end of the day, we had a bonfire:

Daniel the pyro:

The kid tried to put the entire logpile on the fire at once. I wonder where he got those tendencies from . . .

Friday, September 08, 2006

Des Moines Register Advocates Illegal Activity?

At least in concept:
There's nothing like controversy to draw a crowd to a theater production. Plans for students to perform "The Laramie Project" at West Des Moines' Valley High School have been met with complaints from some parents. They say profanity in the script is inappropriate.

So school officials have agreed to "soften" the language. It's a good compromise. Removing bad language shouldn't detract from the meaning of a powerful production about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a young, gay university student in Wyoming. Some student actors may be uncomfortable using bad language in front of an audience that may include parents and grandparents.

Removing profanity should be the end of the controversy.

But that looks unlikely.

The article goes on to discuss how the locals are up in arms about the sexual themes of the show, and are intending some sort of boycott or protest. However, that's not the only controversy entailed with the intentional alteration of a protected work, absent permission from the author and copyrightholder. If I recall correctly, Newton High School got into trouble just last year over that issue, and had to cancel a play when permission to alter it to clean up the language was denied, though I can't for the life of me remember which play it was.

Just pointing it out.

While You were Out . . .

I apparently should've been paying way more attention while I was away from blogging last month.

From the Toledo Blade:
Plan gains to publicly identify accused

An Ohio legislative panel yesterday rubber-stamped an unprecedented process that would allow sex offenders to be publicly identified and tracked even if they've never been charged with a crime.

No one in attendance voiced opposition to rules submitted by Attorney General Jim Petro's office to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, consisting of members of the Ohio House and Senate.

The committee's decision not to interfere with the rules puts Ohio in a position to become the first state to test a "civil registry."

The concept was offered by Roman Catholic bishops as an alternative to opening a one-time window for the filing of civil lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse that occurred as long as 35 years ago.

A recently enacted law allows county prosecutors, the state attorney general, or, as a last resort, alleged victims to ask judges to civilly declare someone to be a sex offender even when there has been no criminal verdict or successful lawsuit.

The rules spell out how the untried process would work. It would largely treat a person placed on the civil registry the same way a convicted sex offender is treated under Ohio's so-called Megan's Law.

The person's name, address, and photograph would be placed on a new Internet database and the person would be subjected to the same registration and community notification requirements and restrictions on where he could live.

A civilly declared offender, however, could petition the court to have the person's name removed from the new list after six years if there have been no new problems and the judge believes the person is unlikely to abuse again.

The attorney general's office said it continues to hold discussions with a group representing day care operators about one of the rules pertaining to what such facilities would do with information they might receive pertaining to someone on the registry if that person is living nearby.

Okay, am I missing something, or is this article actually saying that in Ohio one will be able to be labeled a sex offender, incurring all the residency restrictions and Megan's law implications entailed with that label, by a judicial designation without a jury, and not be able to appeal this decision for six freaking years? And, given that it's a civil designation, I suppose a mere preponderance of the evidence will suffice as a burden of proof? And not one lawmaker saw the problem with that?!?

Please tell me I'm either incorrect or having one of those crazy nightmares.

Pretty please?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Not so Much

State 29 points out the Register's latest article equating the proposed fake rainforest in (fill in the blank) Iowa to the Eden Project in Cornwall:

Earthpark, the Iowa project, plans to pick a site for an indoor rain forest, aquarium and education center in Iowa later this month. The finalists are Pella and Riverside. The $155 million facility is expected to be under construction next year and open during the 2009-10 school year.

"You have to believe in it for it to work," Ellison said. "This whole place is about education, but not about sitting in a classroom," he said of Eden. "This is about changing hearts and minds. What kinds of citizens do we want? How can we engage people?"

Eden now employs 450 to 500 workers, and had as many as 600 workers during ramp-up in the indoor rain forest and education center, built in an old mine. The project has 2,500 vendors, many of which have agreed to energy-efficient work and other "sustainable" techniques in return for long-term contracts. Today, 83 percent of all catering supplies come from Cornwall.

"This is not just a tourist attraction," Ellison said.

Eden's annual economic impact of $250 million is about twice what Earthpark projects for the Iowa project, which is to be designed by the same firm that designed Eden, Grimshaw Architects.

"Because we have been so successful, we've determined that if you go for it, you can do it," Ellison said. "Success builds success."

Eden has exceeded attendance projections and drew 500,000 during its initial construction, before it opened.

"We are so enamored with what the team at Eden is doing," said David Oman, Earthpark's executive director.

The Iowa's Earth Park Child Project (What's the latest name again?) would like to draw on this comparison to support its projection that any fake rainforest built here will receive their estimate of one million visitors per year, which they claim will lead to a "ripple effect" of 2500 new jobs. In fact, their site makes the comparison obvious:

One of the comparable indoor rain forest exhibits in the world is the Eden Project located in Cornwall, England. Five hours from London in England's most rural country, attendance has far exceeded expectations. Approximately 500,000 visitors toured the site while it was under construction. One million eight hundred thousand people visited Eden Project in its first year of operation. The stable-year attendance is 1.2 million.

A "most rural" bit of country drawing over 1.2 million people per year to a fake rainforest. . . on the face of it, it sounds pretty comparable. But are we really talking apples to apples here? A little googling reveals that Cornwall might be a tad different from Iowa, with that whole "rural" thing being a bit misleading.

For one thing, it has an ocean. A surfable ocean, with sandy beaches and the whole shebang. From the BBC:

For more than 40 years, Cornwall has been known as the home to British surfing with Newquay in particular the breeding ground for national and international champions.

The waves which pound the Cornish coastline are created by deep Atlantic low pressure systems which unleash their powerful swells eastwards creating some of the best surfing conditions in Europe.

To prove the county's dominance in the sport, it boasts an impressive array of stars who not only have the respect of the world's top professionals, but also their peers in the local surfing scene.

And more than anywhere else, Newquay's Fistral Beach has been the arena where champions are made.

European number one and WCT contender Russell Winter, British number two Spencer Hargraves and former English champion Alan Stokes are just three surfers from the town who have fine-tuned their wave dance at the powerful beachbreak.

A nice pic:

It also has a castle or two, including this one, a Norman stone ringwork and bailey fortress, founded by Robert, Count of Mortain and home to Edward, the Black Prince:

I realize that Iowa is a nice place. Pella has pretty tulips, and Riverside now has a casino. But casinos are a dime a dozen and not too many people plan an entire vacation around a bulb festival. Okay, reality check time. The non-profit Denver aquarium cost $93 million to build and opened in 1999. It attracted 1 million visitors during its first year of operation. In Denver, a freaking tourist trap. It went downhill from there, and is now belly-up. What about other rainforests? The rainforest in Omaha keeps no separate figures, but the entire Omaha zoo, of which it is a part, only gets about 1.35 million. When the director of that institution was asked whether the rainforest itself is self-sustaining, he stifled a laugh and said: "These are very energy- and manpower-intense operations." He added that annual expenses easily can rise to $20 million: "That's where some of these stand-alone aquariums run into problems, is they run into these 200-plus support staffs because they had to put all the management in place, whereas we ... already have to zoo infrastructure that supports it." (NOTE: while the original March 21, 2004 Iowa City Press-Citizen story giving this quote has been removed from the web, Nicholas Johnson has preserved the text on his site. He has also preserved this Des Moines Register article comparing the projected attendance numbers to everything from the St. Louis Arch to the Louvre. It's very instructional.)

The project's site indicates it will bring a "ripple effect" of 2500 jobs to Iowa, based on 150 permanent jobs and 400 to 500 initial jobs that are construction only. I'm not so good at math, but that appears to me to be a rather large multiple. In fact, running a google search on the term "employment multipliers," I get websites like this one with enough math to make your head swim, but if you look at the figures the multiples range between 1.5 and 3.5, with multipliers of about 2 being most common. So how do we get 2500 jobs out of this project?

I agree with State, this is a load of bogus propoganda. Even though I can see the short-term benefits of getting those construction jobs on a small-town economy, these attendance and "ripple effect" numbers are inflated. So say the project gets put in Pella or Riverside, whichever comes up with the requisite $25 million. How are they going to recoup that money if and when the thing goes belly-up?

Talking last night with Don, he pointed out that I might be a bit behind the times on the latest news regarding financing. I did a bit of research, courtesy of FromDC2Iowa, and discovered that I am indeed behind the times: apparently, the Riverside casino is going to front the money, not the city at all. From the Press-Citizen article on the subject dated over a month ago (Shame on me, but I've got lots of good excuses. Buy me a beer and I'll be happy to tell you about them):

Riverside Casino and Golf Resort CEO Dan Kehl said his family would contribute $2 million and the casino would pay $10 million over the next 10 years. The Washington County Riverboat Foundation could contribute $8 million over the next 10 years, and remaining funds could come from revenue from a hotel/motel tax or a sales tax rebate from the state, Kehl said.

As Professor Johnson of FromDC2Iowa points out, to use this to claim that the city won't expend any funds on the project may be premature, as the Foundation's money might be otherwise spent on schools or community improvement projects, the environmental impact of the building might create some expenses if (for example) the water table can't handle a rainforest, or if the business goes belly-up and needs to be demolished.

However . . .

I can see where this might make the project (gasp) potentially feasible.

Yes, I still think the attendance numbers are bogus, as are the numbers being batted around for "ripple effect" jobs. But if the city can work it so that money from the casino and the casino foundation foots the initial bill, and if the city can ensure that it's not on the hook if shortfalls occur in the casino funds or the proposed tax rebates, and if the city can further ensure that it is protected from direct liability if the attendance falls short and the project fails utterly (as opposed to indirect liabilities such as the costs of demolishing or renovating an empty building) then I suppose it's not so different from having a private investor foot the bill rather than the taxpayers themselves. Under those circumstances, I could be persuaded that the project can go forward. Caveat: I reserve the right to retain my opinion that a rainforest in Iowa is a rather silly idea. I would simply no longer feel it is a recipe for utter financial disaster on the part of the host. Under those limited circumstances, anyway.

Fresh Law

The Iowa Court of Appeals has new opinions posted.

Some of the more interesting cases:

IN THE INTEREST OF J.E involves a reversal of a termination order. The facts are roughly as follows:

In July of 2004, Jerimiah went to a neighbor and said his brother had left and he did not know how to contact his mother. The neighbor called the authorities. When they arrived, they found that the home had no electricity, and several other neighbors confirmed that Jerimiah spent long periods of time at their homes, was always hungry, and frequently there was no one at his home. Jerimiah also had a laceration on his neck, which he told an examining physician had happened when he ran into a rope he strung up. Jerimiah also had an old injury which he said was a dog bite, but the examining physician found it to be more consistent with a human bite. While the officer and social worker were there Robyn returned home. She reported she was absent from the home because she worked and had to do community service hours. Robyn agreed to allow the authorities to place Jeremiah outside the home pending DHS involvement, and supplied samples of her hair and urine for purposes of testing. A urine test was positive for opiates and she said a friend had given her a pain pill after she suffered a fall. Her hair tested negative for all substances. Subsequent tests showed her urine positive for codeine and morphine. Jerimiah was subsequently found to be a child in need of assistance under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) (2003), which states:
6. "Child in need of assistance" means an unmarried child:
. . .
c. Who has suffered or is imminently likely to suffer harmful effects as a result of either of the following:
. . .
(2) The failure of the child's parent, guardian, custodian, or other member of the household in which the child resides to exercise a reasonable degree of care in supervising the child.

Services were started pursuant to the CHiNA, but Robyn did not attend all scheduled sessions. Reports indicated unhappiness with Robyn and Jerimiah's visits because she allowed him to play video games and did not interact with him. After an unsupervised visit in May 2005, Robyn returned Jerimiah early, leaving him in the care of a teenage foster child who also lived in the home. Jerimiah later told Robyn he had been sexually abused by this child, and was moved to a different foster home. In August 2005, while Jerimiah was with her, Robyn was arrested for shoplifting and taken to the police station. Jerimiah told a social worker that it was okay for his mother to steal food. Robyn's visits were again supervised.

In October 2005, the State filed a petition seeking termination of Robyn's parental rights to Jerimiah. The juvenile court terminated Robyn's parental rights pursuant to section 232.116(1)(f) (2005).3 The court noted:
Robyn has participated in services, and visits with Jerimiah; however, her in-home provider testified that Robyn has not been consistent with services, has a history of being unprepared for parent skill sessions, and does not have a strong bond with the child.

The court concluded Jerimiah needed permanency, and it was in his best interests to terminate Robyn's parental rights.

The majority of the appellate court disagreed. The Court found that while Robyn had deficiencies as a parent, these deficiencies were primarily due to the problems she faced in living at the poverty level and trying to provide care while simultaneously working and performing community service:
Robyn has deficiencies as a parent. She also lives at or below the poverty line. The family has insufficient money for food and basic services. She has
attempted to work at a minimum wage job and apparently has to perform community service which takes her away from her family. . . .

Clearly Jerimiah deserves more careful care when she is away from the home. Yet we recognize her problem in affording child care when her sole employment is a minimum wage job, and in addition she has been ordered to do community service hours which take her away from her children. We find it hard to believe that Jerimiah's interests are better served in removing him from his three older brothers, who have a substantial bond with him, and he with them. . . .

Robyn has participated in services. She has missed some sessions but has difficulty with transportation. Ideally she would have engaged in more intellectually stimulating exercises with Jerimiah during visits than allowing him to play video games for which she is being chided. The State's entry through child in need of assistance programs is not to create the perfect parent but to assure adequate care for its children. Jerimiah was found to be a child in need of assistance because he did not have reasonable supervision, yet no efforts were expended to that deficiency.

If reasonable efforts were made to provide Robyn child care for Jerimiah while she works, modifying her community service requirement to allow her to provide service that would not take her away from her children, giving her budgeting help, assistance in finding adequate housing and legal assistance to help her resolve her delinquent bills, there is little evidence Jerimiah would not be safe in her care if she had assistance with child care at times she was required to be absent from the home. We therefore question whether the State has proved the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence.

The Court also noted a problem inherent in the general push for permanency in the "best interest" context:
We are not willing to find that Jerimiah's best interests will be served by termination. Despite the State's argument that termination is necessary so he can get on with his life, he will get on with his life in whatever situation he finds himself.

Justice Miller dissented, pointing out that Jerimiah is a special needs child, mildly mentally retarded and suffers from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) as well as physical problems, including heart arrhythmia for which he takes medication, and is on a low-sugar, no-caffeine diet. With Robyn's several psychiatric problems, she continued her pattern of providing inadequate supervision of Jerimiah despite receiving services:
The paramount consideration in a termination of parental rights proceeding is the best interests of the child. In re C.K., 558 N.W.2d 170, 172 (Iowa 1997). In seeking out those best interests, we look to the child's long-range, as well as immediate, interests. Id. Robyn has not provided for Jerimiah's best interests in the past. She has left him unsupervised, in a home without electricity and with very little food. Despite receiving extensive and lengthy services, Robyn subsequently provided Jerimiah with a very poor role model by shoplifting in front of him, which led Jerimiah to form the conclusion that stealing was "okay." Robyn has also demonstrated that she is unable to provide the stability that Jerimiah needs. I would conclude, as the juvenile court did, that termination of Robyn's parental rights is in Jerimiah's best interests. . . .

While Robyn did have unsupervised overnight visitation with Jerimiah, visitation became supervised again after she shoplifted while she had Jerimiah with her, and he saw her being arrested and taken to jail. Robyn subsequently again became inconsistent in her participation in services. I would conclude Robyn had adequate time to comply with services, and it would not be in Jerimiah's best interests to give her additional time for reunification.


SCHMIDT V. MUELLER involves an oral promise to pay for the remodeling of a church, and whether that promise is binding upon the estate after death.
The facts:
Reinhard Schmidt was a member of Bethany United Church of Christ, and throughout his lifetime he made many gifts to the church. In 2003, Schmidt told the pastor, Wayne Gardner, he wanted to fund remodeling of the parsonage, the church basement, and the cemetery. No specific amount of money was mentioned. Schmidt made a new will in August 2003, but he did not include a bequest to the church. The will included bequests to thirty-four relatives, including nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews.

Schmidt informed his great-nephew, Loren Milligan, and great-niece, Barbara Carroll, of his intent to pay for the church projects. Milligan and Carroll assisted Schmidt with his finances. Milligan obtained cost estimates, and told Schmidt the combined projects would cost between $115,000 and $150,000. Milligan testified Schmidt had no reservations as to these figures. Milligan headed the church committees overseeing the remodeling. Prior to SchmidtÂ’s death, and in reliance on his agreement to finance the project, work was begun on one bathroom in the parsonage, and flooring was taken up in the church basement. Landscaping the cemetery had also been commenced. . . .

Schmidt died on September 7, 2003.

Milligan was named as the executor in the will. He chose to honor SchmidtÂ’s verbal pledge to the church, and he used $135,410 of estate funds for the remodeling projects. A final report was filed in district court on March 11, 2005. A beneficiary under the will, Ilse Mueller, filed objections to the report.

The issue became whether or not the oral promise to the church to pay for the remodeling was binding on the estate absent some sort of consideration or detrimental reliance. The Court first noted that charitable subscriptions are considered under contract principles, so they must involve an offer and an acceptance of that offer - a mere statement of an intent is insufficient. Both an offer and an acceptance were clearly manifest here. However, under Iowa law generally neither consideration (the thing you normally get in exchange for agreeing to do or not to do something) or any sort of detrimental reliance is necessary in the case of charitable subscriptions. As a matter of public policy, that's because they "often serve the public interest by making possible projects which otherwise could never come about.” But as a practical matter, its inherent in the nature of 'charity.' If a church or other organization had to either give you something in exchange for your donation, it would hardly be efficient. And if they had to show they acted to their detriment in relying on a donation, then basically all donations would be revocable until and unless the money was actually expended by the charity, making promises to donate nearly impossible to enforce. But here the charitable donation didn't take the normal form of signing some sort of pledge, it was oral. And Mueller felt that should make it entail either consideration or detrimental action in order to be enforceable.

The Court disagreed, concluding oral subscriptions are enforceable in the same manner as written subscriptions. (Side note: even if they were not, I believe that it would still be arguable that the church did act to its detriment in reliance on the promise, in that it tore up the building to start remodeling.) The Court also found that the sums involved were within the expectations of the deceased, and therefore the estate should be held liable to the church to fulfill the intended donation.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Random Stuff

1) September trunk and fashion shows in Chicago! (Must resist. . . . Unless I can find another really, really good excuse to visit . . . . . . . . haven't seen my grandmother in a while . . . . )

2) The Sci-Fi channel is posting "Webisodes" of Battlestar Galactica. From the Trib:
The makers of the critically acclaimed series will help bridge the gap between the end of last season and the new season, which debuts Oct. 6, with an online mini-series called "Battlestar Galactica: The Resistance," reports. The first of 10 episodes went online Tuesday. Episodes will appear every Tuesday and Thursday for the next five weeks.

While viewing the episodes won't be essential to follow the season-three story, "The Resistance" does promise to bridge some gaps between the season two finale--which ended with Cylons descending on the newly colonized planet of New Caprica after President Gaius Baltar's (James Callis) surrender--and the new episodes.

The Webisodes focus on some of "Galactica's" supporting players. The first picks up about two months after the finale, with Tigh (Michael Hogan) and Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) trying to organize a resistance.

3) Waiterrant is as good as ever:
Top Ten Quotes
By waiter on Uncategorized
Here are the top ten quotes from the lovely customers I had the pleasure of serving this Labor Day Weekend.
1) “I want Diet Coke in my Absolut. Not a Diet Coke and Absolut.”
2) “I want a Cosmo. Not a lot of fruity stuff! And don’t be cheap with the vodka!”
3) “This Apple Strudel’s not what my mother used to make. I don’t want it! Send it back!”
4) “This salad looks like a circumcision.” (It was a cured beef Carpaccio, actually)
5) “Give him a nice tip. He didn’t fuck up our order.”
6) “Excuse us waiter, we’re talking about lubrication.”
7) “Our waitress has too much hair.”
8) “My gift certificate expired two years ago. Can I still use it?”
9) “I don’t think the waitress understood our order. Those people usually don’t speak English well.” (Waitress is Latino)
10) “This food’s so good I’d stick my dick in it.”
You can’t make this stuff up.

Check it out.

4) Above the Law has a beauty contest for Erisa Lawyers. Link courtesy of Joe, so don't blame me if you go blind. Oh, and he also posts on changes in the Iowa administrative code on tax laws. So you might want to read that one first.

Okay, I have to get back to real work now.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Weekend Outing

Saturday, Nelle, Kmacis, Don and I went over to Eureka Springs, just 'cause it's there. Most of the town consists of a herd of bed and breakfasts interspersed with antique shops, new age stores, or generic kitsch, so I didn't bother with photos. Though some of the B&B's are definitely cool. We did stop at an old railyard, where I got a few shots

A photo of the train station/gift shop.

One of the engines:

Trying to shoot one train car from the window of another. Artsy, no? Okay, maybe not so much . . .

Then I tried a black-and-white shot, which I do think turned out rather well:

A shot of the creek, which is apparently part of the Eureka Spring water system:

Oh, and I did get one shot from the shopping excursion through town. Knowing me, you'd think it would be of the cute velvet and lace skirt I saw, or maybe a pair of strappy heels. Then again, maybe not:

BTW - I did these via my cell because I forgot to bring a camera. Nelle probably has much better pics of a bunch of different stuff, 'cause she remembers to do things like that.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Okay, so perhaps I'm a tad picky today, probably because I was late getting ready this morning and that always annoys me. But I have to take issue with a couple of editorials in the Press-Citizen this morning. Just 'cause.


First, there's this article: Casinos are for losers. Reading it made me realize that it's been a long, long time since I've done a nice, snarky fisking. So here ya go:
Regular readers of the Wall Street Journal often are amazed by a marked disjunction between the paper's news reporting and its editorial opinions. Recently, this near schizophrenia has been most pronounced in reports and opinions concerning the Iraq war, global warming and trickle-down economics.

Press-Citizen readers were treated to a somewhat similar display Monday when the paper included an eight-page "news" supplement on the opening of the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort while "opining" that the project was "still a gamble for [the] local economy."

The Riverside Casino as analagous to the war in Iraq? Ooookaaay. 'Cause they're both in a desert? Both involve death, terrorism, and golf? Please, enlighten us.

I understand this is an attempt to demonstrate hypocrisy in journalism, contrasting the PC's conservative articles about the potential effects of the casino with it's apparent endorsement of gambling in another section. Regardless, this has to fall under some kind of a corrollary to the common axiom that any given debate has reached the lowest form of exchange and should be terminated forthwith once the spectre of Hitler or the Nazi party is invoked in a purely hyperbolic manner.

So, new rule: If anyone invokes the "it's just like the Iraq war" analogy to demonize a political issue having nothing to do with the situation in the middle east, George Bush (either of them), or war in general, the conversation has degenerated to the point it's no longer worth pursuing. That said, I'll continue the fisk.
"Shuffle Up and Play," encouraged the P-C's supplement -- with detailed instructions on playing poker, craps, roulette, blackjack and the slots. The few cautions mentioned in this free casino advertising section are minimized as no real threat to students, problem gamblers or the community. Everything is under control. After chronicling the P-C's opposition to the expansion of casino gambling and the Riverside enterprise itself, the Monday editorial goes on to encourage local leaders to "make the most of this opportunity" (an ironic hat tip to its own supplement?), but reminds them that "they can't confuse the money changing hands at a casino with real, long-term investment in the community."

NOTE: the article mentioned is apparently not available on the PC site in electronic form, and since I've no access to the PC this week, I'll have to refrain from analyzing whether he's accurate that the article minimizes the dangers of gambling, and take that as a given. That said, there's more:
Reality check. They already have.

Horse racing, the lotteries and then the "riverboats." Once the state opened the door to gambling (and became dependent on that revenue stream), its continuing expansion was inevitable. The only setback gambling has taken was the repeal of TouchPlay -- not much of a setback at all because that Stanek-devised obscenity threatened the casinos themselves. Riverside will be "on the water" over its vinyl bladders, and its owners will close roads and get water as they please. They will get whatever they want.

Let's examine the logic here. Premise: Once the state opened the door to gambing, expansion was inevitable. Proof: Gambling has expanded since it's inception. Does the term "circular logic" ring a bell with anybody?

Gambling has expanded since the days of a state lottery. Some disapprove of that expansion. Others don't. Regardless, it was not "inevitable, but a process that was debated and argued every step of the way. Unfortunately for gambling opponents, the majority of Iowans appear to want access to gambling and gambling establishments. Otherwise, even if the casinos on the borders of the state were filled with customers from Illinois, Missouri, etc., the interior establishments would be comparatively barren. Last I looked, they aren't. They're fairly full with Iowa citizens who have apparently decided gambling isn't so bad. Casinos are being built because people want to go to them, and vote accordingly. Disagreement with the outcome is not indicative of a flaw in the process.
But here's the reality folks. Your regular visit to the Riverside Casino will cost you about $57 -- the average loss for Iowa casino visitors last year (not including visits to the three American Indian casinos). That's not counting your drinks, tips or the cost of getting down to Riverside. Chances are the average loss in this casino will be higher than $57 because somebody is going to have to pay for all those "amenities" -- like the golf course, events center, etc.

Most of this money won't be recirculating in the community. It won't be supporting honest local businesses. Can we afford this? . . . .

Here's where the fundamental disconnect between gambling proponents and opponents occurs: define "loss?"

If I go to a movie theater and blow $10 for a ticket and $7 in snacks in exchange for an hour and a half's entertainment, have I technically "lost" $17? If I head to New York or Chicago for to a theater show and blow $80 on a ticket, $70 on dinner and $150 on a hotel room, is this a $300 "loss" - which doesn't even begin to cover the cost of travel and other such "amenities"? How about when I ante up an average of $5 to $10 for my weekly poker games with the guys? If I don't end up in the money, is that a "loss?" Or are all these examples of my exercising a rational (okay, mostly rational) decision on how to spend a finite amount of money I've earmarked for entertainment purposes?

The average visitor to this casino will spend $57 for an evening's entertainment, not including dinner. If memory serves, that money would buy me an average of three to four hours at a blackjack table. So, who decides whether this is a valid entertainment expense for me, or nothing more than a "loss?" I personally don't feel $10 to $20 per hour for entertainment is outrageous. I happen to enjoy playing blackjack and poker. So, for me, that's not a "loss." Granted, I gain no material benefit from the exchange of money for my time (unless I win, which has been known to happen). But that's no different from seeing a movie or a show, going skiing, or even making a road trip to Great America or the zoo. With all these occupations, I've generally learned nothing, acquired no material possessions, and spent a sizeable amount of money, yet I don't consider them a "loss." I really don't see the difference.

As to the second issue, confusing money spent at the casino with support for my local community, I'm afraid I must make a frank confession at the risk of losing my official "Iowa" status. When deciding what to do on a Saturday night, I rarely ask myself the burning question: "Will my entertainment dollars stay in my local community?" Shocking, I know.

I mean, I do frequent local bars, but I have no idea how the ownership structure of these establishments function. For all I know, they could all be a front for some obscure Columbian drug ring. I also attend movie theaters, many of which belong to large national conglomorates whose offshore accounts are beyond my comprehension. I do support local theater, but who knows where Menard's got that lumber we used to build the set? And where does that royalty money go, anyway? I think it's in New York somewhere, but there is the distinct possiblity that foreign travel enters into the equation.
Can we afford the costs of increased policing, crime, embezzlements, divorces, child neglect, bankruptcies and suicides? The truth is, no one is going to be keeping track of any of this.

Divorce, bankruptcy, child neglect, suicide, all over $57. Wow.

Yes, I realize that for some people gambling is a serious problem. For others, alcohol is their drug of choice. If these people do not seek help and excercise control over their respective addictions, it is quite possible that any of the tragedies listed in the article could happen. In the case of alcoholism, there's also death by alcohol poisoning to worry about. Some would argue that makes it incumbent on us to eliminate these temptations - re-enact prohibition, ban gambling. Live life by the weakest common denominator. I don't personally ascribe to that philosophy. Given the popularity of gaming establishments and bars, it appears the majority of Iowans agree with me.
Can you personally afford to gamble? Got enough in the bank to put your kids through college and retire? Paid off that mortgage? Got enough socked away for this winter's heating bills? Ready for the threatened dismemberment of Social Security, Medicare and your pension plan?

Ever notice how people tend to view entertainment money as incredibly wasteful, if it's not being spent on their chosen form of entertainment? I've known people who would spend several thousand dollars on fishing gear or sports paraphrenalia, yet cringe at the thought of buying a $100 pair of heels. I've seen people who sneer at the amount of cash spent on video games and gaming gear, while spending thousands on books or stereo equipment. Be honest: would any of you who gasped at my outlining a $300 expenditure for an evening of theater in Chicago blink at spending the same amount to go to a choice away game for the Hawkeyes? Note: remember to equate my dinner tab to your bar tab, and factor in for memorabilia. I'm just saying.

As anyone who's been in a serious relationship knows, entertainment dollars are precious and often hard choices must be made as to where and when they are spent. It's generally incumbent on each partner to be cognizant of the priorities of the other, and to give equal weight when deciding how to spend entertainment money, since it's all technically "wasteful" in the sense it's not required for the essentials of life. Similarly, I try to view everyone's choices on entertainment through a tolerant lens. I may think it's insane to spend money to buy a sweaty t-shirt worn by some sports figure, but they think I'm nuts for saving up to get the Gianni Bini boots I want this winter (I'm also praying for a sale).

To claim that money should never be wasted on gambling until and unless the mortgage is paid off and the college fund fully stocked can be equated to claiming that there's no money to go to a movie, see a show, or take that trip to Adventureland because you're not yet completely prepared for retirement. You could live life this way, and if that's your idea of fun, good for you. I'll send you a postcard from my next vacation, something to help tide you over until that magical age of 65.
If you're really hard up for casino-style entertainment, here's an idea. Put up some flashing lights in your bathroom. Put on the music of your choice. Get some really nice hors d'oeuvres and mix your own drinks. Now start flushing $20 bills down the toilet. When you've finally had enough "entertainment," at least you can remind yourself that you saved on gas and didn't pollute the environment.

Casinos are for losers.

Personally, while I can see the attempt to equate gambling machines with flushing down the toilet, I'm not so sure the analogy holds. There's no opportunity to hit or "double down," at least not without clogging the machinery. Maybe if you roll a ping-pong ball around the rim of the bowl, you might be able to approximate some sort of roulette-like experience . . . and that's not even touching the whole "floor show" issue.

In other words, while rational arguments against gambling exist, this article does nothing more than rehash unsupported hype and inflammatory rhetoric. Attempting to pull in the Iraq war was a nice touch, but ultimately served less to enhance the article than to further refine the rules against hyperbole in debate.


Second, there's this article, basically an ad for the Christian Science religion dressed up as a memorial to Nile Kinnick:
Nile Kinnick is a hero worth celebrating. It is about time we Hawkeye fans get to know more about this fascinating individual as is happening through events around the stadium renovation and the new play, "Kinnick." His well-rounded nature exhibits not only exceptional athletic and student abilities, but also a deep spirituality as a student of Christian Science that motivated him to be the best he could be.

As a student of Christian Science, Kinnick studied the textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, which fully explains the Christian Science and its method of metaphysical healing. As the term science implies, Christian Science not only involves the search for understanding God or the supreme being, but also opens the door for demonstration of divine principles or laws which, when applied, result in healing of sickness as well as overcoming sin in fulfillment of understanding.

There is a record of Kinnick's spiritual healing of an ankle injury by turning directly to God in prayer alone with the help of a Christian Science practitioner. A practitioner is an individual who prays for healing for those who call upon them for help.

I find the piece annoying, primarily because I prefer my prostheletizing straight up, thanks. Talk tenets and principles, leave the whitewash aside.

It also raised an extraneous question I've always had about that religion: a major tenet of the faith, as confirmed by the official Christian Science sites, death isn't real and if you practice their religion correctly, you shouldn't be subject to its effects. From the February 21, 2005 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel:
The Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, made this penetrating comment: “The Scriptures say, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,’ showing that Truth is the actual life of man; but mankind objects to making this teaching practical.” She was using man in the term’s generic sense—representing all men and women.

Truth is the actual life of man—that’s an idea vaster than a galaxy, and it begs for exploration. And explore it is exactly what Mary Baker Eddy did in her life-long effort to discover and practice Jesus’ spiritual method of healing.

In doing so, she became one of the world’s greatest advocates for the right to know oneself as the creation of Spirit, exempt from sin, disease and death. This knowledge, she believed, was the divine Science of healing that everyone had the ability to learn and prove.

Mrs. Eddy learned that Jesus wasn’t just speaking figuratively when he described eternal life as the knowledge of God and of himself. He demonstrated that knowing oneself to be God’s spiritual and immortal likeness acts as the mental power that restores and maintains health now—and eventually overcomes death itself.

From the May 2006 issue of The Christian Science Journal:
Matter-based concepts such as birth and death are generally seen in a far too superficial way. We can be birthed a little bit into mortality every time we decide to enter a darkened doorway. On the other hand, we are avoiding a measure of death as we choose a more divinely lit vestibule, spiritual-mindedness, instead of material-mindedness. Matter isn’t really the substance we suppose it is.

Mrs. Eddy grasped the very heart of matter by describing it as “a false form of mind.” Christ Jesus called on us to repent, to change our thought. Have you ever considered repenting of matter? That could be a call to change from a false, or materialistic, way of thinking to a spiritual, or God inspired, way of seeing life and existence.

As we close off those corridors of thought that lead right into matter, we’ll find ourselves increasingly conscious of a matterless, but far more concrete and permanent, reality. We’re discovering that materiality wasn’t reality after all.

A mistake about reality? An illusion of reality? From an entirely Spirit-based reality, matter isn’t any of these. It isn’t any kind of reality. In other words, from a fully awakened, infinite, perfect, and spiritual consciousness, there never is a limited, discordant, matter-based reality.

Given all this, I question how one could consider Kinnick, my now-deceased relative, or even Eddy herself a successful practicioner of the faith - after all, not to put too fine a point on it, they're all dead now. Or "not material". Whatever. Doesn't that rather bespeak a fundamental flaw in the belief system itself, when not one of the members - including the founder - achieves the level of spiritual enlightenment promised by the sect? Just asking.


So, hey, it's now past noon and the snark has all worn off. It's sunny and I'm not at work, and I'm going to enjoy the rest of my day.