31 December 2012

Trash Rips

Trash rip is the phrase used by law enforcement to sneak to the front of your residence in the middle of the night and take the garbage you have set out for pickup the following day. Once they take your garbage, they take it to a place of warmth and comfort, dump it out, and go through the trash for evidence of illegal substances such as marijuana seeds and stems. Marijuana seeds and stems are evidence that marijuana is to be found in the residence from whence the trash derived. The courts uniformly, to my knowledge, declare that a person has no expectation of privacy in the trash that he sets out on the street for collection. I am most certain that if one read enough cases dealing with the fourth amendment and the searching of garbage bags one would find rationalization for this position. Personally I don't expect anyone to take my trash to go through it for any purpose and wouldn't much like it much if someone did take it. My neighbors, strangers, nor law enforcement do not need to know my business. The lack of expectation in privacy to trash is one of these judicial pronouncements without a basis in fact. Numerous such determinations have been made by the courts whereby they simply declare something as fact and we as citizens must conform to that determination. The practice of law enforcement to collect garbage from suspected users of illegal substances is not a secret. Most defendants who are the subject of such searches and then must endure a knock on the door by the ninja squad, usually with a battering ram, should know that neatly disposing of the remainder of their illegal substances or of the paraphernalia used to contain it or to use it is not the thing to do. Most regular drug users who I represent have been the subject of a search warrant or have friends and associates who have. They certainly have an expectation that the evidence of their crime will be disposed of properly in the landfill for none to see or suspect. These people are aware that the use of these substances is illegal, that they may be arrested, thrown in jail, fined, and required to hire lawyers. These people do not throw their used meth pipes into the front yard for the neighborhood kids to find or the guy walking his dog to pick up and call about. They put them in a bag with the other trash, tie the bag, and expect the garbage truck to pick it up and to disappear it the next day. To say that there is no expectation of privacy is simply to declare something contrary to fact. I would argue that the trash sitting in your front yard waiting for pickup is an extension of your residence, which is your castle to be protected from search to the fullest extent possible. It is part of your curtilage which is the area around your house and associated buildings. If you become aware that someone is lurking in your back yard at night or your hear something in your open garage at three in the morning, you call the cops. If you can't sleep and are looking out the window when someone pulls up and throws your garbage bags in the back of a vehicle, you don't call the cops because it is the cops. But if you did call the cops, would that not be evidence that there was an expectation of privacy. I think this a marvelous idea. Call law enforcement if someone takes your trash. You, as home owner, or resident are paying for the collection of your trash. You know who is to be picking it up. You know that the people picking up your trash have neither the inclination or time to be sifting through it. When you send a letter to a person, you have an expectation that the letter will go to that person, not to a third person. Trash is hardly any different. When you set your trash on the curb, you expect it to go to the landfill, not to the police station.

29 December 2012

Let Them Vote!

Our governor, Terry Branstad, has magnanimously decreed that it will now be easier for convicted felons to regain their right to vote. One does wonder about this as most convicted felons who would even consider voting are democrats. I'm sure there are many in his party that question the propriety of this demonstration of democratic enthusiasm. All is well though, in that most felons don't vote. They have long ago accepted the fact that voting has no effect whatsoever on their lives and is more trouble than it is worth. The harm done by this act is minimal, if any. The other sop given to the hardliners is the money. In order to be able to vote, these convicted felons will have to pay. It will cost money to vote. From what was reported of the decision by the governor in the paper, which may or may not have any basis in fact, in order for a felon to regain his right to vote, he must have paid his fines, court costs, attorney fees, and restitution or be making regular payments on them. Since 80%, at a minimum, of convicted felons are destitute, not much will be added to the state treasury from this decision by the governor--although it does sound good and will placate those of us who worry constantly about the state budget and high taxes. What this does, in fact, is further restrict the right to vote. The governor proclaims that it will now be easier for a felon to regain his right to vote but at the same time requiring money to do it. The effect is the opposite of the proclaimed which is exactly how we do things in this country. It works since most of us don't think about anything at all and certainly will not spend any time analyzing the governor's proclamation but will take it for what it is stated to be. As we are also creating felons at a rapid pace, the numbers of the public able to vote will continue to diminish. The legislature creates new felons every session. They should quit the quibbling and just make every crime a felony and we can solve the problem of ne'er-do-wells voting once and for all.

28 December 2012

Postage Theft

Perusing the federal criminal code for long-buried crimes, I ran across 18 USC 1720 which makes it a crime to reuse a postage stamp. Not only is it a crime, but Congress in its efforts to stamp out crime has provided that a person may be incarcerated for up to one year for reusing a postage stamp. Occasionally one will see a stamped envelope where the stamp was not properly cancelled. Since stamps now cost 45 cents, it is quite natural to think that it might be used a second time, no one knowing the better. Don't do it. You will have committed a criminal act therefore making you, at least in your own mind, a criminal. There are those who believe reusing a postage stamp is perfectly acceptable. If the post office can't properly cancel a stamp, then who are we not to use the thing again. It saves almost one-half of a dollar and is the thrifty sort of thing to do. The United States Post Office is charged with covering its costs. This was a Ronald Reagan enactment. Since the USPS charges for its services they should cover their costs if not actually make a profit. Why this most necessary function of government should be singled out to cover its cost is uncertain. Surely there are other ways the United States government can cover some of its costs. I suggest they rent out some air craft carriers to China or Japan. Russia might even be in the market for some warships. This would be a huge boon to the United States Navy. It would take a lot of stamps to cover the rental of a major warship for a year. When enacting a criminal statute it does not appear to be a relevant factor that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed the crime. With the crime of reusing a used postage stamp, it would appear that the only method of proof would be to have a snitch. It doesn't appear that the United States Post Office has the technology to determine the reuse of postage; if it even exists. If it is clear that no one will ever be prosecuted for reusing a postage stamp, why does Congress make it a crime to do so? This question should be posed to our congressmen and senators. More than likely, no response will be given in that they have way too many important matters to deal with and can't be bothered with postage stamp theft. Enacting crimes is a fun thing to do; it enhances one's view of oneself as a ethical leader. It is one more step in the continuing project of the correction of immoral, public conduct.

27 December 2012


Occasionally as a criminal defense attorney you have a client who gives every appearance of being a person who can not be helped. In order to have even an interest in helping someone escape prison or jail, that person should show some small inclination in helping themselves. There are those who have very little, if any, socially redeeming value-they merely exist on the planet wandering about without the minutest contribution to anyone's well-being. True, as they do not produce anything, they consume very little-just enough to keep themselves alive. These people actually improve their prospects by being placed in jail or prison. They have food, warmth, and a bed to sleep in. These are items that may or may not be available to them regularly outside of jail. In these cases, their attorney should make little effort to have them released as early as possible contrary to their protestations. After all they have things to do, places to go, and people to see or so they say. Attorneys have ethical rules they must follow. These rules go to the idea that attorneys exist to assist their clients when dealing with legal problems, especially those of a criminal nature. The client comes first. However, clients come along whose reality is significantly different from the common. This can be the result of mental imbalance, stupidity, or simple ignorance. Ignorance can often be cured, but not the other two disabilities mentioned. There is no help for stupidity and little for the mentally deranged. We have a vast array of therapeutic placements for those hovering around the criminal justice system. Unfortunately little distinction is made between a person who is schizophrenic and one who has an IQ of 75 or one who simply doesn't give a rat's ass. We have apparently come to the conclusion, here in the U.S.A., that all can be helped, all can be productive members of society, all can learn to do what they are told. This is nonsense. To rehabilitate implies that a person at one point in his life did not need rehabilitated; the person exemplified the qualities most desired in a citizen. This premise is incorrect. We have a difficult time accepting the fact that there are those who simply can not or will not function as the society would have them function. I suppose we could take them out and shoot them like the Nazis did. We forget that the Nazis were killing their lunatics, schizophrenics, malformed long before they were gassing the Jews and gypsies. Theirs was an attempt to strengthen the race; a replacement for natural selection or a form of it. Since most societies have rejected this method of maintaining themselves, other solutions must be found. One thing we do have in common, however, is that these people should not be allowed to decide for themselves what is best for them. Someone else must do the deciding. It is certain, we will not leave them alone. They are far too obnoxious and annoying to be allowed to roam about at will. It may cost a great deal, but if they are incarcerated they will not bother the general public with their numerous needs; they will no longer be inconvenient and we can safely ignore them if they have been disappeared.

24 December 2012

Miracle on 34th Street

After surviving more than half a century without watching Miracle on 34th Street, I was coerced by the family into viewing it last evening. I can no longer brag that this movie belongs to my "Refuse to Watch List" along with Oklahoma, Sound of Music, and Gone with the Wind. As we have now reached a level of inoffensive speech such that we can now refer to Kris Kringle's mental health as opposed to his lunacy, we can analyse the situation in terms more susceptible to the understanding of the general public. The mental health hearing as portrayed in the movie went from whether Kris had such bad mental health based upon his belief he was Santa Claus and should be therefore committed and treated to the issue of whether Santa Claus is real. These seem to be two entirely different issues. People believe all kinds of stuff including things that do not exit nor having ever existed. Do we consider a person deranged, having serious mental health issues, because of what he believes? Historically, and currently, what people have believed has got them killed. Religion has been adept at this as has a myriad of ideologues. Ergo we must consider belief as something that is taken quite seriously by a vast number of humans. Now most people believe something, usually quite incorrectly; so we must decide if all beliefs are committable or just some of them. Or, is there a continuum whereby the local psychiatrist will suggest commitment, medication, or therapy. Psychiatrists, as all of us, must have something to do. Consequently, some sort of diagnosis and treatment is normally prescribed for beliefs that are patently false or not held by the majority of the community. Now it is clear from the movie that it was considered by some to be committable to believe yourself to be Kris Kringle, but perfectly acceptable to believe that Kris Kringle is real, crawls down chimneys, and visits every house on the planet in one night. It is also perfectly acceptable to convince your eleven year old that Kris is real and will deliver unto her her dearest wish. The judge did the right thing, of course, but it was a tortuous path to dismissal. I do love the prosecutor, it perfectly encapsulates some of the prosecutors that I have personally known; quite happy to prosecute some harmless old man for not behaving in a socially acceptable manner. It must be admitted that mental commitment is preferable to burning at the stake or the gulag which have been some of the past practices; but we're not quite over the idea that we should do something to and with people who do not believe as we do. Beliefs can result in actions corresponding to those beliefs. Possibly this is the concern of those who do not hold those beliefs. It is possible to believe in something with no basis in fact or logic, but an issue if the person holding such beliefs either expresses them or acts upon them. Kris Kringle not only believed, but expressed his beliefs and acted upon them, hence the problem. The moral of Miracle on 34th Street is that it is ok to believe your Santa Claus, just don't tell anyone.

22 December 2012

Office Flirtations

The Iowa Supreme Court filed an opinion yesterday, Nelson v. Knight, which resulted from office flirtation between a female employee and a male employer. Sex had not occurred but certainly was on the horizon when Mrs. Employer determined that her husband should fire the attractive, flirtatious, and suggestive employee. Well, Employee didn't think much of being fired, was apparently somewhat bitter about the whole experience, and brought suit alleging sex discrimination. Basically, she, Employee, was fired so that sex would not occur. Mrs. Employer was concerned that Mr. Employer might take advantage of the obvious offer of sexual gratification through his long acquaintance and growing affection for Employee and declared that Mr. Employer fire Employee forthwith. Which he did. Employee brought a sex discrimination suit against Mr. Employer alleging that she was fired because of her sex. The Court spends considerable time developing the thesis that this was not the case; that Employee was fired because she was a threat to Mr. Employer's marriage. She was fired so that a flirtatious and suggestive situation not become sexual. Employee believes this to be sex discrimination. The Court thinks otherwise. Sex at the office is not sex discrimination. If an employee is fired because of a jealous wife, too bad. It may not be fair, and it may be in poor taste, but it isn't sex discrimination. Personal jealousy resulting from office sex is not actionable especially when pastors are involved as they were in this case. The church is involved when sin is imminent. Mr. Employer properly admitted to violating the tenth commandment and properly atoned for his sin. The Court certainly can not determine otherwise. We can now all rest easier when we realize that consensual office sex will not result in onerous litigation when things go wrong with the arrangement. Considering the fact that most of us work in offices with people of the opposite sex these sort of situations are bound to happen on occasion. What one does need to keep in mind though are angry spouses who may object and interject themselves into such a cozy tete-a-tete-they very seldom become a menage a trois.

21 December 2012

Permission to Drive

Many are the complaints of government interference in our personal lives; the regulation of our daily activities. One of the most important activities, a most necessary activity, is driving a car. A citizen of Iowa may not drive a car, motorcycle, truck without permission from the State. I can think of few regulations more onerous than this one. I can not drive to the grocery store, to my job, to any other destination unless I have permission from the State of Iowa to do so. One wonders whether their was a populist uprising over this provision of the law when acted. When Obamacare came into existence, a violent protest ensued over government interference in our health care as if we haven't been living with government interference in our lives since birth. Apparently it is not appropriate for the government to tell you to get health insurance, but it is ok for the government to give you permission to drive a car. This doesn't seem to be logical. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that a large number of people don't think the government has any business telling them not to drive. These are people I represent, charged with driving without a license, driving while revoked, driving while barred. A citizen of this state may be suspended, revoked, or barred from driving a motor vehicle. It is unknown why we have such a variety of names for the withdrawal of permission to drive except for the fact that our elected representatives believe they have the right and authority to determine who can drive a car and who can't. There are innumerable methods by which the State of Iowa can withdraw a person's right to drive a car; the methods seem to increase in number each time the legislature meets. The two major reasons for losing your driving license are: One, a person is considered to be dangerous behind the wheel, i.e., operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated; and two, money. If a person owes a fine, court costs, or has a driving related judgment, one will not be allowed to drive unless the sum is paid or a satisfactory payment plan is made. Our lives are organized in such a manner that driving is a necessity. We have had no say in this. Unless one lives in a high density city where all the necessities are within walking distance, driving is required. No such place exists in Iowa. Faced with the choice of not driving and taking care of yourself and your family, driving is the choice. Those who must drive are normally in the lower income range, often receiving government assistance. There is little an attorney can do for someone caught driving without a license; one had a driver's license or one didn't. If caught driving without a license, the person is fined, jailed, and the suspension extended. Now there are more fines to pay and poor paying jobs lost because of incarceration. This is nothing more than a tax on the poorest citizens. We must understand that we use crime for purposes of control. A most important unintended consequence of driving without a license is also driving without insurance. If one does not have a driver's license, one can not obtain insurance. The consequence of this is that a significant percentage of drivers on our highways have no insurance and in the event of an accident, the person with the insurance pays. The person without insurance is normally judgment proof and if the fault of the driver without insurance, our Department of Transportation will see to it that the person without the insurance will never have a driver's license for he will never be able to pay the insurance company of the driver with insurance who was required to foot the bill. None of this makes any sense, of course, but what does? Unless, as it obviously is, the purpose of these laws is to control the citizenry. The courts have rationalized this control by stating explicitly that a driver's license is a privilege not a right. This simple statement is the basis on which the State of Iowa gives its citizens the right to drive a car. If the statement were turned around and the courts would have stated that a driver's license is a right not a privilege, the world would be a different place; and apparently, in the eyes of the legislature, chaos would ensue. This assumption seems to be without merit. There is little likelihood in this land of the free and home of the brave that anarchy would reign if its citizens had a right to drive.

20 December 2012

Traffic Cameras

The Polk County Board of Supervisors has recently authorized traffic cameras for rural areas of Polk County on a party vote of democrats for and republicans against. This is enough to cause a person to cross party lines and support the forces of reaction and imbecility. According to newspaper reports this decision has nothing whatsoever to do with revenue, but with safety. If this statement is true, it is another example of elected officials assuming that the pubic is a complete dunce. It is so patently false to be ludicrous. Of course it has to do with revenue, or as we say, revenue enhancement. In the name of safety we will now be tracking the public on rural roads to ensure they don't kill themselves with excessive speed. What I'm looking forward to is the placement of traffic cameras monitoring the stop signs on gravel roads around the countryside. Anyone who would stop for a stop sign on a gravel road where there is no traffic and no intersection meeting of vehicles in living memory, should not be allowed to drive. Traffic signs have two functions: to direct the flow of traffic and to establish liability in the event of an accident. A stop sign is not placed at an intersection for the purpose of requiring a vehicle to stop its forward motion, it is placed at the intersection for the purpose of assisting motorists traversing the intersection if two vehicles should approach it at the same time. A large number of drivers of motor vehicles on our highways pay no attention to anything outside of their vehicle and need help when encountering another vehicle when surprised by seeing one in their vicinity. There are many too many things inside a car to be bothered by what is outside of it. We have people to talk to or text on the cell phone, the radio to adjust, the cd player to manipulate, the cruise control, sandwiches to eat, make up to apply, on ad infinitum. Ergo we need an occasional stop sign or a yield sign to decide who gets to go first. In addition, the psychology of a vehicle operator is different from the psychology of the person when not driving. When not driving, the normal citizen of our great country is compliant, without noticeable aggression, but when behind the wheel changes into an aggressive, compulsive, and rather stupid human. It is remarkably good fortune that even those of the lowest ability to learn are able to drive. Driving a car is superable easy; probably one of easiest things one can do. Cars practically drive themselves. But back to the point, traffic cameras in rural areas are simply another version of tax with the additional governmental function of controlling its citizen's behavior. All I ask is that we see it for what it is. Safety has nothing to do with this so let's just admit it and not be stupid about it. In any event a traffic accident now and then is not such a bad thing. It gives work to wrecker crews, law enforcement, ambulance crews, hospitals, lawyers, and insurance adjusters. By reducing accidents, the supervisors are reducing employment and income. The people earning their income from personal tragedy should put themselves on the next board meeting agenda and voice their concerns.

18 December 2012


Bigamy is a serious misdemeanor in Iowa. The only surprise is that it is a misdemeanor since sex is involved and most everything involving sex is a felony. Bigamy is one of those crimes having been on the books since time immemorial the purpose of which most assuredly was property. The probate courts would be in a mess if more than one wife or husband showed up upon the death of the spouse. By simply not recognizing the second marriage solves the problems associated with multiple spouses. Maybe the Mormons have the solution to these thorny property issues. Considering the fact that half the population now cohabitates, we just don't worry about bigamy any longer. People don't marry, they merely live together. They do have fiancees however. A fiancee now indicates someone you are living with wherein there is a sexual relation. Fiancees may change regularly and often and many are what are termed serial fiancees. This is clearly demonstrated by the number of children a woman has by different men. She is a serial fiancee. Now the men are less easily identified in that they usually don't take their children with them when moving on to another fiancee. They too are serial fiancees. For these people bigamy is not an issue. Where bigamy may be an issue is in the wealthier portions of society where a person's main interest is property. In these situations, it has been known, that a person may serially marry for the purpose of acquiring wealth whether in the form of property, money, insurance proceeds, etc. Here probate may be a problem causing extended litigation. In the example of the serial fiancee previously mentioned, property is usually not an issue. No probate problems will arise, at least none the social workers can't iron out. It is clear then, that the crime of bigamy is strictly for the benefit of probate referees and the courts and is reinforced by the 7th Commandment which strictly prohibits adultery. It would be interesting to know whether the concern over property or the religious injunction came first. My guess is that the concern of property came first and the religious injunction subsequently to give it effect. The issue of multiple spouses was compounded by the issue of multiple children by multiple spouses. What then? Just a real mess when it comes to dividing everything. The English have always been perplexed by the problem of illegitimate children which naturally arises in cases of bigamy. Shakespeare is full of bastards; a term so passe now that not one in 50 school children have ever heard the word let alone know what it means; and luckily so, since half of them are in fact bastards.

17 December 2012

Petsmart Petulance

Yesterday was the first time I visited a Petsmart store and am having a difficult time getting my mind around it. We followed a couple into the store who had a dog on a leash. I understand that Petsmart encourages people to shop with their pets. It was a surreal experience somewhat akin to being beamed into a Salvador Dali painting where things look familiar but are somehow askew. Several aisles were piled high with innumerable flavors of dog food, for various health benefits, and specific to different breeds of dogs. One variety of dog food in a rather diminutive bag was listed for $72. Unbelievable. There are more people than you can count here in the United States that do not have $72 to eat with for a month; and, we will buy a $72 bag of dog food so that the fur on our dog will be silkier or the dog may have an allergy! The shoppers in the store were decidedly not the super 1% rich as we read about. They were most certainly people who actually work for a living, paying mortgages, borrowing money to buy cars. But because Petsmart exists, one must go there and conform to the behavior expected, i.e., take your pet. Petsmart provides a shopping experience; an experience designed for the purpose of selling pet supplies at exorbitant prices. In that they have in stock 150 varieties of dog food and 75 varieties of cat food along with all the accoutrements such as every size and flavor of chewy, treat, toy conceivable, one is required to buy something. What I find troubling is that because something exists, one finds it necessary participate in its existence. Just because bungee jumping exists does not mean one is required to bungee jump. I made the mistake of making some disparaging remarks about the experience of Petsmart and met with actual hostility apparently with the opinion I was personally attacking those to whom I spoke and their animals. I have learned, and actually purposefully used, the method of alienating people by telling them that they have a really ugly pet-usually a dog. Apparently this was the thought of the people to whom I spoke; that I was attacking their beloved pets for which Petsmart and its ilk exist. Now that I have been chastised, I shall attempt to appreciate the pet mall as a necessary accoutrement of our modern, consumer world.

15 December 2012


The shootings at the elementary school in Newtown was an act of random violence. There will be a reaction to it, both politically and legally. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to protect yourself from acts of random violence. It can not be foreseen by those who are killed or injured. It is an act of terrorism as that term is and should be defined. Terrorism is the attack by one person against a second person to send a message to a third person. The second person is simply the victim of the conflict between others either real or fanciful. The shootings in Newtown will have an impact on this entire country; it has a psychic impact and affects us all. What I do find ironic in this act of violence is our lack of response to these acts of violence elsewhere. These types of acts are played out daily in Iraq. A car bomb goes off in a crowded market killing 40 men, women, and children. A road side bomb explodes in Afghanistan randomly killing whoever might be in the vehicle that set it off. Always, in the mind of the perpetrator, there is a reason for killing people who you don't know, who are minding their own business, who are simply living day-to-day without hurting anyone. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan, the mothers sending their kids to school, those going to market to buy provisions for dinner live with the knowledge that there kids or mothers may not be home that night. How do they do that? Our first response to Newtown is that such acts are not suppose to happen here in the United States. We are different; this is not how we settle our differences nor employ our dissatisfaction with our own lives. As we have seen in the last few years, there are always a person or two, of a country of 300,000,000, who believe it is the thing to do to go on a killing junket. These acts of violence are first given credulity, then planned, and lastly executed. They are not impulsive acts. The one ingredient in all such acts is a message. The person committing the act is sending a message; is expressing himself; making a statement. In this case guns were used; just lately, in China, school children were attacked and killed with a knife. There will be a violent argument ensue from Newton over guns. The president immediately indicated that there will be a reaction to this shooting; the gun people are girding themselves for battle. Rather than react as we are wont to do with all things untoward, lets think about it first. Let us first decide if we can actually do anything about these random acts of violence; is there something in the national psychic that can be addressed? Personally, I doubt a solution. The human impulse to control others; the dissatisfaction all of us feel at one time or another with our own lives; the urge to have an impact are unmanageable. The 20th century saw a hundred million people slaughtered, starved, tortured; the most destructive period in the history of humans; and we did it to each other. Maybe we are better now, but the 20th century was not so long ago, and it is difficult to see that we, as a species, have changed much.

14 December 2012

Trial by Jury

Court service days are those days in court where defendants appear for matters that take little time such as arraignments, pretrial conferences, uncontested motions, etc. These terms are not self-explanatory, but attorneys practicing criminal law will understand the process. The courtrooms are full of defendants and attorneys waiting to plead guilty, plead not guilty, negotiate a reasonable disposition of the case, or to take care of other matters that may present themselves none of which take more than a few minutes. What becomes obvious with only a few minutes observation is that the vast majority of defendants plead guilty to something--either the original charge or some lesser included offense. This observation is reinforced when discussing a new charge with a new client and asking about his previous criminal history and if ever he has gone to trial on anything. The answer, with very few exceptions, is the person has never gone to trial but always plead guilty to the original charge or some lesser included offense. Most often the reason is to be released from jail since bond could not be made. Often times it is simply to get it over with. Criminal charges are disruptive, anxiety producing, and expensive even for those with unlimited leisure. The criminal justice system is a factory production. It produces compliance and revenue; the perfect combination. What is apparent, however, is that this system operates only because of the cooperation of defense attorneys and defendants. We as a group are complicit in this organized assault on our clients. If, on one day, on one court service day, each and every defendant said "I'm not pleading, I want a trial", the criminal justice system would implode. No court could withstand the onslaught of trials; they simply could not be scheduled. Prosecutors would be incapable of rational thought wandering about the halls asking themselves what to do. Court attendants and clerks would be staring about in wonderment. Law enforcement would be spending their vacations and off duty times waiting endless hours at the courthouse to testify. It is amazing just to think about. The chances that this vision would ever become reality borders on zero. There is no economic impetus for a trial. Defense attorneys lose money going to trial. Defendants incur costs they cannot afford. Family, friends, and associates called to testify grumble over the imposition. It is all very disadvantageous. From observing the run-of-the-mill defense attorneys there is little interest in trying any case unless the defendant actually insists on a trial. In a county such as Jasper, where you may have one jury trial a quarter but hundreds of criminal charges, something is askew.

13 December 2012

The Sporting Life

The sporting life from what I can observe consists of schlepping children to and fro from their various athletic endeavors and watching sports on television sitting in an easy chair. Parents begin transporting their children to such things as t-ball and soccer pre-kindergarten. Soon these activities are transcended by soccer, softball, baseball, football, volleyball most or all of which may begin as early as kindergarten. These activities continue through high school with increased intensity as they evolve into school activities as opposed to a collection of parents self-organizing. The purpose of these activities is difficult to ascertain. Most of the urchins engaged in these activities are not athletes, give no indication of ever being athletes, and would be just as happy playing tag on the school grounds. The purpose of these child athletic engagements appears to be for the benefit of the parents. The parents are required to organize these activities, to transport their children to them, wait until finished, and deliver them up again home. It is the opportunity for you, as the parent, to meet other parents with which you have nothing in common and having nothing to talk about. It is also the chance to yell at the coach, grumble that your kid isn't getting enough playing time, complain about the referees, or the best scenario, to get in a fight with a parent of a kid from the other team. And, you take turns in the concession stand so that snacks are available and money is found to finance these activities. This latter is a real treat. By taking your turn in the concession stand the parent is unable to ignore anyone, child or adult, and must, at the minimum, show enthusiasm. Depending upon the parent's endurance, sporting activities for one's children can consume every evening of the week and both days of the weekend. For those who follow this path, their lives most be totally vacuous, without the hint of meaning or interest. Between the children's sporting activities and television sports, such parents live a nearly vicarious existence. It is difficult to know why anyone would want to be acquainted with such people let alone spend time with them. Children are inherently uninteresting and these parents spend a great deal of time successfully emulating their children. It is difficult to believe the children are in the least grateful. Comments of the children would seem to indicate they have some inalienable right to participate in these activities clothed and shoed as expensively as possible with the ever present water bottle at their disposable so they remain properly hydrated. If mediocrity is reached, parents are cajoled into summer camps for the improvement of technique. The expenses mount and vacations are foregone, but the children are happy.

12 December 2012

Student Cheating

The latest outcry of concern in our daily publications is student cheating which to read the reports is endemic in our institutions of learning, from grade school through Ph.D. programs. The concurrent message is that we must immediately do something about it; what, no one says. But all are agreed that it is an onerous development and one that reflects poorly on us all. Personally, I've never been especially exercised over cheating in school considering the fact that a majority of the students in school don't take learning seriously enough for it to make a difference to them or anyone else. Secondly, most of the things students are suppose to learn are either wrong, superficial, or irrelevant. Not that one should endorse cheating, but there are certain things about cheating that seem to be positive. For instance, cheating takes some initiative. It also takes planning, preparation, courage, risk taking, and good nerves (coolness under pressure). These are all qualities that we encourage in our children; but as with so many things in life, if we do them we are being naughty. Again I'm not saying we should encourage cheating, but maybe it isn't the end of the world either. I suspect cheating is not a new phenomenon. I remember reading the Iliad and the Odyssey years ago and thinking I wouldn't trust those Greeks for anything. If my memory is correct, they would lie and cheat with the best of them. So I suspect that cheating is not new either in school or out of it. I suppose we could make it a crime like we do everything else we disapprove of; if caught cheating, off to jail you go. Or, if not having reached your majority, then to detention center; or at least put on probation where you can be monitored by the juvenile probation officer for evidence of continued cheating. The general public must be satisfied; a little like the Roman Collosseum. Cheating is a crime in numerous areas of endeavor such as tax returns, fraudulent transactions, illegal cable hook ups, failure to return library books, prenuptial agreements, fabricated SEC filings. The list could go on, but the point being, no good reason exists to exempt children from the criminal justice system if they cheat. They need to learn early the arm of the law is long and demanding. The earlier the better. As stated in other contexts, it is time to call our legislators for action. New legislation is needed.

11 December 2012


Over the years I have heard more complaints than I can count that welfare payments are simply a form of taking from those who deserve the money they make and giving to those who won't work and don't deserve money they get. This misses the point entirely. Welfare is simply another method of controlling the lower classes and it works very well. The person giving the money has control over the person receiving the money; this fact can hardly be disputed. In the case of welfare, it is the government giving the money, and the poor, uneducated, dysfunctional people receiving it. Without this monthly stipend, the government would have only the police to keep these people under control. With welfare, the Department of Human Services is created and staffed for the purpose. Social workers in the guise of helping those who need the help are in fact the second wave of enforcers of morality, public order, and discipline. Where the police are unable to justify throwing someone in jail, the social workers are called in to deal with the schizophrenics, the terminally depressed, and the other misfits who have lost what little housing they have or their residences are too full of mice and cockroaches to be habitable. Social workers are paid to monitor the activities of these folks; to act as payees, to ensure that the rent is paid, and to prohibit them from making nuisances of themselves. Giving someone several hundred dollars a month is quite cost effective. Without the monthly stipend, Walmart's loss prevention officers would be overwhelmed, beggars would suddenly appear in the streets, burglaries and robberies would multiply. All this would be very annoying to us decent folk who go to work every day and do what we are told. I have attempted to explain this to my Republican friends without success. The opinion continues to hold that these people should take responsibility for their own lives and not be supported by the rest of us. I think they should make up some posters and place them in various locals around our urban areas where these people live. This might make the difference. Once they read the exhortations on the posters, behaviors will immediately change and peace will reign. The fact remains though, the fact which remains unacknowledged, is that what should be is different from what is. It would be paradisical if what should be actually was reality; but it isn't and it would be better if we acknowledge it so we can deal with it.

10 December 2012

Paid to Think

In a world of jobs, thinking is not a requirement. Thinking, in fact, is a detriment to productivity. One does not pay the stocker at HyVee to think nor the person at the cash register at McDonalds. The last thing an employer of these people wants is a workforce who spends its time on the job thinking about anything. The common opinion on teenagers working, which make up the vast majority of these employees in these jobs, is that they are good training and experience for adulthood. And in fact they are wonderfully good training for a career of working without thought which is expected of most of us most of the time. An exception to this mandated life without thought is the legal profession. The idea of thinking is an integral part of the law school curriculum. For many this is a difficult concept to grasp and even more difficult to practice. It is a new experience for most and thinking can be difficult if one has never done it. A large number who enter law school leave shortly thereafter having soon come to the conclusion that thinking is not for them. A graduate of law school really doesn't know much more than when he matriculated; but presumably the graduate now has the ability to actually think about issues presented. Unfortunately lawyers fall into the general malaise of the nonthinking population by limiting their thinking processes to their professional duties. They, like the general population, identify. They identify with a political party, a religious organization, a social network. Once this has been accomplished, no thinking is required. That job has already been done. There exists nothing in daily life that requires thought. And by thought I do not mean deciding on what to have for dinner or whether or not to put an addition on the house. Being a creative chef or builder of additions are activities, not thinking. For most of us, when not working we are engaged in activities. Activities are another substitute for thought. The major activity appears to be television. One can not drive down the street looking through windows, day or night, and if anyone is present, the television is on. Some engage in more than one activity at any given time such as watch television and cook. Thinking requires two things, at a minimum: effort and knowledge. Without facts one has nothing to think about and without effort the facts are de minimis. One only needs a brief discussion with a high school graduate to realize that our public schools are not in place to produce thinking adults; they exist to incorporate and indoctrinate but most importantly they inculcate respect for authority. An example of this is the successful effort by the schools to convince our children that it is great to be an American; that America is the greatest country in the world. I'm not saying that it isn't, but why is it or why may it not be. This is something we definitely do not want our citizens to give thought to.

08 December 2012


Have you ever thought about the concept of punishment? Where did this idea come from? God punishes sinners; parents punish children; governments punish citizens. It seems that underlying each of these is control. If you can not punish someone, you can not control them. Punishment is not revenge or retaliation. Revenge and retaliation arise from impulses distinct from controlling others; they are more primitive. But punishment implies power; without power one is unable to punish or to control others. Throughout history men have imprisoned, killed, maimed, and tortured other men as exhibition of power. It must be very satisfying to know that you can control other people by punishing them. Presumably the justifications for controlling others are as many as those who have the power to do so; but it is based on one unconvertible idea which is that the person with power is superior to the person without it. I am sure that this subject has been discussed by people wiser than myself, but it would seem to me that power is a gift from one person to another. In order for a person to have power over me, I must allow it to happen, I must give him the power to do so. Without my acquiescence, no one can control me. There are folks who refuse to be controlled. A good example are some of those who I represent who have used, continue to use, and will use in the future illegal substances. They refused to stop using them whether it is a crime or not. Our governments, especially the federal government, has decided that they will simply put these people in cages and keep them from these illegal substances for most if not all of their lives. It is not that these people are particularly dangerous or harmful to others; they are simply uncontrollable. They will not do what they are told to do. And since they will not do what they are told not to do, the government will insure that they don't by placing them in cages where they will be told what to do every waking moment of the day. They will be told when to eat, what to eat, when to sleep, what to watch on tv, what activities they are allowed to do, etc. They are now controlled 24 hours a day year after year, decade after decade. It is simply this: if you do not voluntarily act in the manner proscribe by us, then you will do what we say, every time we say it, all the time, where we have complete control of you every moment of the day. It is no more complicated that this.

07 December 2012

To Clone or Not to Clone

In 2007 the Iowa legislature suddenly determined that human cloning should be a felony. I'm unaware that there was much human cloning activity, but it is possible that the Department of Vital Statistics may have the information of who of our acquaintances are cloned and who actually have parents. I don't recall the impetus for the bill which would subject a cloner up to 10 years in the penitentiary, but I suspect it was religious in nature having in view that only God should be able to create man not other men. Now, of course, this view has no rational basis, but if one thinks about it, there are certain difficulties associated with cloning. For instance, how does probate work? Does a clonee inherit from the adults who raised him or her? Who inherits from a clonee? These are questions that would be what we call in the trade "cases of first impression". Another difficulty that would present itself is obtaining a credit card. I don't know how many times I have had to give as the secret word, my mother's maiden name. Since a clonee doesn't have a mother, this suggests that credit card companies need to change the secret word to something other than your mother's maiden name. This would cost money. Holiday dinners would certainly be different. Most clonees would be eating Thanksgiving dinner by themselves or at the local restaurant; but conversely, many fewer Christmas presents would be purchased saving hundreds of dollars. And since most families have at least one person who they never want to see, that problem would be solved. So there are benefits as well. Bastard, though no longer a pejorative term since half the children born in the United States today are bastards, would no longer be on the bottom rung of the social ladder. As the Indian custom of castes, clonees would be a rung below bastard since bastards have at least one identifiable parent. Bastards would be pleased with this raise in status and should, by all accounts, support cloning. I think we need to send out a state-wide questionnaire to determine how many clonees exist in the state. Once we have identified them, we can assess their intelligence and moral character to determine whether clonees are superior or inferior to the normal uncloned person within the state. It is my view that it would take a rather slipshod effort on the part of the cloner to produce inferior people, but be that as it may, we would have some statistics to work with. And if it were found that clonees on the average were of higher intelligence, more productive, better citizens than noncloned people, we should address our legislature with this knowledge and ask them to reconsider the crime of cloning.

06 December 2012

Paranoia Plus

If you pay any attention whatsoever, you may have noticed that police stations, courthouses, the capitol, government buildings now have gate guards, many with screening devises to check for dangerous implements. This is a relative recent phenomenon, but one that has been gaining speed for a number of years. When you ask about this, the response is universally-security. It is to protect the people who work in these buildings. But let us think about this for a moment; something I often ask. Immediately several questions surface. For one, from whom are the people working in these buildings to be protected? The answer is, from you and me. I must take everything from my pockets to enter the Polk County Courthouse. The last time I was in the Iowa State Capitol I also was required to take everything from my pockets. The federal courthouse is the most difficult of entrance. There one must practically disrobe. I not only have to show my ID to people who know me, but I must take off my belt and shoes too if they contain metal shanks. Personally I find these requirements disrespectful. I am viewed as a potential threat to the safety of the people who work in the building. In many of these buildings, if not most, people are in possession of a vast number of firearms, weapons of all kinds, ammunition in sufficient quantity to hold off a siege. There is significant symbolism in the behavior of the people working for the government; of the government itself. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this behavior is that governments and the people who work for governments are afraid of the public-the people who they are employed to serve. Public places should be places where people want to go; to feel welcome. This is not the case. Every level of security makes the visit to a public place, such as a courthouse, more foreboding, more difficult, less welcoming. As a result the public goes to the courthouse only when required. It is no longer a place to hang out and see what is happening in the halls of justice. The federal courthouse is the most deserted. I'm not sure that one would even be allowed entrance unless one could articulate a specific reason for the visit. What this discussion leads to, especially in regard to the federal government, is that they are afraid of us--you and me. This is not good. Fear easily leads to oppression and repression; one may only look around the world to see how easily governments slaughter their own citizens because they fear them. This is not to say that the federal government will begin slaughtering the citizens of this country, but fear is a continuum; it travels from low to high, from a little to a lot, and it moves up and down. Fear is harmful; it is the cause of irrational behavior and it sets the government apart from its citizens. From being all in this together; it becomes us against them. With the level of security we experience in dealing with our government, the conclusion is easy to reach that the government is not for us but against us. But as with many things, there seems to be no solution. When voicing concerns over building security, the response is normally one of disdain or suspicion; you are either ignorant of life in modern society, or are callous of the safety of those employed to protect you.

05 December 2012

Traveling Arrestees

Its a considerable inconvenience to be arrested a thousand miles from home. As one goes hither and thither across this great country of ours one comes upon various constabularies all alert to the slightest infractions of the jurisdictions one traverses. Occasionally the traveler needs gas, food, refreshment, toilet or some such necessity and stops at a local establishment. It is good policy to pay for what you receive. Some don't and are then chased down, arrested, taken to jail, and required to post bond to continue on their way. Once gone it is difficult to return for the required court appearances, especially if one resides a thousand miles distant. The traveler, now the defendant, believes that the matter should be resolved without a return trip to the scene of the crime. The local judge and prosecutor, depending upon the seriousness of the infraction, believe otherwise and hence, we have a situation. With no defendant appearing in court at the appointed time, a warrant will issue and the bond forfeited. Now if the alleged infraction is not a felony, the warrant will be limited to Iowa-usually. However, this could also be rather inconvenient if the defendant is either an over-the-road truck driver or a frequent traveler on our Interstate 80. Detours can be expensive and time consuming. If, for instance, one is traveling from Chicago to Omaha, traveling around Iowa would add considerable distance to the trip. Of course, the defendant, now the absconder, will be just fine traveling through Iowa as long as he does not come to the attention of the authorities. I suggest he not drive, especially his own vehicle. As defense counsel to the absconder, one is compelled to tell him that the warrant will not exceed the limit of the state boundaries, or he can actually come back to the state and resolve the issue which by this time will more than likely entail spending some time in the county jail. Neither of these two solutions seems reasonable to the absconder who voices the opinion that his lawyer should just be able to take care of it with maybe a fine; that he is working and can not miss work; does not have a car that can go that far; is in the middle of a divorce and can not leave; or is now on probation in his state of residence and can not receive permission to come to Iowa. All very legitimate reasons for not presenting himself to the court, but not sufficient. In cases like these I don't expect ever to see my client again unless he is foolish enough to drive through and again come to the attention of the authorities. I just make sure that the money has arrived for his representation.

03 December 2012

Off to Jail We Go

Having been charged with a simple misdemeanor, not in the presence of law enforcement, the officer has the option of citing the person, mailing it to him, setting a time for the person to appear in court; or in the alternative, the officer can arrest the person and haul them off to jail. The maximum embarrassment, inconvenience, and loss to the person is to arrest him at work in the middle of the day so that all fellow employees are aware, his boss will fire him, and it will cost to pay a bondsman to be released from jail. This is exactly what some police officers will do. It doesn't concern them that you are a single parent working at a crappy job or live in the community with kids in school where the news will soon spread that their parent was hauled off to jail for some heinous crime. You see, if you are charged with a crime, you have instantly lost the respect of all decent people which obviously includes law enforcement personnel. Whatever embarrassment, loss of wages, stranded kids or pets are caused by the arrest, it doesn't matter, you deserve it. This does not apply to all law enforcement, I will be the first to testify. Many police, deputies, troopers, etc. are decent guys trying to do the best they can; but there are some and we know who they are, that love it. Whether it simply be a love of authority, meanness of spirit, or a combination thereof, some will go out of there way to make life difficult for you. They take pleasure in making your life miserable. These are the officers that you most often see in court as well. Simple courtesy will save court time. Just as there are individuals you see month after month, year after year in court, there are officers you see in court week after week waiting to testify on their time off or during hours they should be sleeping. These are the officers that piss people off; these are the officers who would not be in court if they had used a little common courtesy on those they have arrested or cited. It is not unusual to speak with someone in court or hear a case where the defendant had little or no defense but was so angry he fought the charge knowing he will lose. No solution presents itself. The varieties of human character found in the public are found in law enforcement. Mean, petty, and abusive law enforcement has always existed and always will. We have done a rather good job in this country in minimizing it, but here and there it pops up and we must deal with it as we find it. When this happens to you, if ever it does, the most important thing is-don't go down without a fight.

01 December 2012

Brainy Computer

I have recently listened to a computer engineering guru discuss the efforts to build computers that emulate the human brain. If one stops to think about it, this is a terrifying idea. Considering how the average human brain works, or doesn't, depending upon your point of view. Why would you want to build one like it? Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin are not too far behind us to understand that there are on this planet brains that should not be allowed to exist. So if we build a computer that is equivalent to a human brain, will it be Nero's or Jesus's. This doesn't seem to be a very good idea and maybe we should rethink it. Representing people charged with crimes, having lived some time on the planet, and personally viewing the efficacy of the human brain in action, it would appear to me that we should limit our endeavors to building computers that purposefully do not emulate the human brain. From my experience, most brains do not act in a rational manner; any form of logic is absent. I know, let's build a computer on crack or one that is intoxicated. This would be lovely-your residence being operated by a drunk computer or one high on meth. It would be interesting, I will say that. IBM had the correct idea in building Big Blue to play chess. Build a computer that does one thing. If you want a computer that is good at Trivial Pursuit, okay. Let us stop there though. I'm not really interested in a computer in my car telling me how fast I should be driving or when to pass or not. I can see now one of those traffic camera's on I-235 sending a signal to the computer in my car automatically slowing my speed to conform to the speed limit or sending a message to the constabulary that I'm texting while driving. Can you imagine a computer with emotion? Just think what it would be like dealing with a pissed-off computer; the lights in your house start blinking on and off because you are up past your bedtime; your shower water turns ice cold because you have been in there too long; or, suddenly your house key won't work. So rather than just assuming we want smart computers, let's think about it.