Friday, July 22, 2011


Being an attorney in Iowa, I have a bit of a vested interest in how our state legal system is run.  I've been both criminal prosecutor and defense counsel.  I've been in-house defending tortfeasors, and out helping plaintiffs make injury demands.  Right now, most of my cases are family law.  And I can tell you, in general, Iowa's court system is one of the best around. We really don't need damage caps here, because our juries are common-sense.  They give big awards rarely, and when they do they are well-deserved.  They are not afraid to goose-egg a plaintiff who has no case.  Criminal cases are generally brought to trial when the evidence is there to support them, not manufactured out of thin air.  We may not have the death penalty, but when our first-degree criminals go to jail, we don't let them out.  Juries are deliberate and not afraid to acquit if the proof is not there.  In divorces, there is a predisposal to shared care and I've seen as many men get custody as women.  Best interests of the child is the touchstone, and it usually wins out.   The DHS system may not be perfect, but it's tailored as closely to the family's needs as possible.  

So when Bob Vander Plaatz started his campaign to remove the Iowa judges who decided Varnum v. Brien rather than taking it to the legislature to amend the constitution, I had a big problem with that.  I've read Varnum and I've read the Iowa Constitution, and the judges got it right.  Whether you like it or not, provisions in the Iowa Constitution do clearly prohibit laws limiting marriage to opposite-gender unions.  If you want to change that, you need to change the Constitution.  Blaming the current crop of judges for the 1857 language of the Constitution is silly.  Saying that they shouldn't have decided the case in front of them because they should have put it to the legislature for a vote indicates a grave misunderstanding of our governmental structure and the separation of powers.  Claiming that we now need to change how judges are elected here because that is the real problem is, well, ludicrous.  But that's what Mr. Vander Plaatz has pushed as his nearly sole agenda for the past couple of years.  Not the consitutional repeal of the clause at hand, but a fundamental shift of how Iowa makes judges that would create a policization of our legal process to rival nearby states like Wisconsin and Illinois.  Because we all know how well that's working out for those states.

While I'm against the politication of Iowa's legal system, I'm even more vehemently against stupidity. In the now-infamous Marriage Pledge put out by Vander Plaatz' FAMiLY LEADER group, it stated in the preamble: "Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA?s first African-American President."  The group has since backtracked on that particular statement, but notably not because they've come to realize how asinine it is.  Rather, it was because "we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued, and such misconstruction can detract from the core message."  Well, "misconstrue" this, Family Leader:
I say nothing of father, for he is shrouded in a mystery I have never been able to penetrate. Slavery does away with fathers, as it does away with families. Slavery has no use for either fathers or families, and its laws do not recognize their existence in the social arrangements of the plantation. When they do exist, they are not the outgrowths of slavery, but are antagonistic to that system. The order of civilization is reversed here. The name of the child is not expected to be that of its father, and his condition does not necessarily affect that of the child. He may be the slave of Mr. Tilgman; and his child, when born, may be the slave of Mr. Gross. He may be a freeman; and yet his child may be a chattel. He may be white, glorying in the purity of his Anglo-Saxon blood; and his child may be ranked with the blackest slaves. Indeed, he may be, and often is, master and father to the same child. He can be father without being a husband, and may sell his child without incurring reproach, if the child be by a woman in whose veins courses one thirty-second part of African blood.
That is a direct quote from My Bondage and My Freedom by the American hero Frederick Douglass.  In reading the book,it is interesting to note that upon the author's first arrival at the plantation proper to begin work at about seven or eight years of age, he is met with several of his brothers and sisters who have already been working there.  Brothers and sisters he is a complete stranger to, because they have never met.  He barely knows his own mother, and is not sad when she dies because she is a virtual stranger to him.  This is the "two parent family" cited as being so much better than today by the Family Leader.  This is not a misconstruction.  This is a travesty. 

But I digress.  The main point of today's rant is the growing boycott of Wells Blue Bunny ice cream.  Why?  Because it turns out that the Wells family are huge supporters of Mr. Vander Plaatz.  From Think Progress

Mike Wells, the president and CEO of the company, was a member of Vander Plaats’ council of advisers during his gubernatorial campaign and public records reveal that Wells family members have contributed at least $456,000 to Vander Plaats and his affiliated organizations and campaigns:
– $184,500 from Wells family members for his 2010 gubernatorial race, his largest contributors.
– $246,000 from Wells family members for his 2006 gubernatorial race.
– $25,500 from Wells family members for his 2002 gubernatorial race.
– $25,500 to the Iowa Family Center PAC, a group associates with the FAMiLY Leader.

Regarding Recent Posts About Political Contributions

Blue Bunny and Wells Enterprises have never donated money to Bob Vander Plaat’s political campaign. Everyone, including our employees, has a right to support political activities within their role as a private citizen. What our employees support personally is in no way an endorsement by our brand or our company.
 Erm, yeah.  Not buying it.  Yeah, I agree that employees of a company can personally support a politician or political viewpoint that might not connote an endorsement of that politician/viewpoint by the company as a whole.  But Wells Blue Bunny is a family-owned business:
Since 1913, the colossally creative artisans at Wells— the largest family-owned and operated ice cream manufacturer in the United States —have been hard at work putting all things chunky, chewy, rich and gooey into their ice cream.
Thus, what the Wells family gets up to politically is entirely funded by the Wells Blue Bunny business, and to call Mike Wells a mere employee is being facetious.  Supporting Wells entails supporting Vander Plaatz.  That's something I just can't do.

So now for the hard part.  The current container of Wells Blue Bunny Premium All Natural Vanilla in my freezer is going to be my last.  The Super Fudge Brownie that's on the shopping list is now crossed off.  I'm going to have to go from buying ice cream made right here in Iowa, to stuff shipped in from Vermont (Hello Ben!  Hiya Jerry!) or Massachussets (Unilever owns Breyers, I guess.).  I'm not going to ask the Wells family to compromise their fundamentalist belief system in order to hawk their ice cream.  But they shouldn't ask me to buy their ice cream given that the profits will be going in part to support causes I despise.  I guess they need to look for their customer base at Bob Vanderplaatz' political meetings. 

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