“Ryan, You Cheated!”

In a May 8 (Run, Ryan, Run) article, I wrote about some Army Basic Training events that attempted to carve me into the man the Army wanted me to be.  I hope my readers don’t think that was the end of it.  The U.S. Army truly tried to mold me into a fighting machine.  However, it’s difficult to make steel out of rubber.

Like me, you may have heard about some things that occur in Basic Training that have been passed down for years.  The first example is that the Army has “NO GUNS!”  No.  Guns are those big things on battleships that fire massive pieces of ammunition toward shore or other ships.  In the Army, we call our handheld defensive machine a rifle.  Prior to being drafted, I had heard of the shameful act of having a soldier stand in front of everyone with his pants’ zipper down, holding his manhood with one hand, his rifle in the opposite hand, and reciting over and over and over again:  “This is my rifle; this is my gun: This one’s for fighting; this one’s for fun.”  I never thought it was true.

Yes, it is true.  One of the guys in my platoon had to do it.  It was disgusting.  They made him stand out in front of the Mess Hall as we were entering for a meal.  He was a native-American from a reservation in South Dakota.  He got the last laugh.  He was medically or generally discharged because he could not adjust to military food.  Actually, I think he was discharged before the guy in the wheel chair.

I don’t know much about the guy in the wheel chair.  He was in our company, but not my platoon.  Members of the platoon with the wheel chair guy told us that he was drafted, even though he couldn’t walk, and hadn’t for years.  You have to wonder how someone like that made it through all the stopgaps.  It is, nonetheless, the government.  I suspect it was a grudge, or something like that.

Then, there was Hovey.  Hovey disappeared one day, his bunk stripped of blankets and sheets and his footlocker empty.  The barracks in Fort Lewis, Washington, were wooden.  Recruits were allowed to smoke, and many did.  Used Folgers’ coffee cans were painted a bright red, and served as ash trays.  Because a combination of smoking and wood might cause a fire, one person walked around the two-story barracks each night on “fire watch”.  Each soldier was scheduled for one hour.  When your hour was up, you woke up the next person on the schedule and so on and so forth.  I happened to be the one on watch one night when I turned around to see Hovey right behind me.  ‘What was he doing on the second floor in his briefs and T-shirt?’ I asked myself.  Both of us had bunks on the first floor; his was next to mine.  “Hovey?” I whispered.  He said, “It’s alright, I got my cap.”  He walked back and forth down the middle aisle of the second floor and went back downstairs to bed.

In the morning, those on watch are to report any strange activity.  I had to report Hovey.  He was sleepwalking.  That will get you a medical (or administrational) discharge faster than being in a wheel chair, supposedly. 

The wheel chair guy, the native-American, and Hovey.  Three people I didn’t get to know.  They accomplished something Corporal Klinger and I couldn’t get done – a quick way out of the Army.  But I didn’t envy any of the three, I thought I could be a good soldier.  Staff Sergeant Green’s attitude toward me was misunderstood.  I just don’t know why he didn’t like me.

The day no one looked forward to was the day in which recruits have to run 2.5 miles over rough terrain with a full pack, weapon, helmet, field jacket, etc.  There were approximately 40 men per platoon, and our company – Charlie Company (or “C” Company for non-slang conformity) had 4 platoons.  Although I was in the 1st Platoon of Charlie Company, we went 2nd.  Another platoon took off ahead of us.  After a 30-second wait, it was our turn.  I was in the front row.  I passed a lot of people, and when I came across the finish line Sgt. Green ran right over to me and said, “Ryan, you cheated!”  I didn’t realize that I came in first and passed an entire platoon.  While I lit up a cigarette, I told him that I passed each and every checkpoint.  He could check to make himself feel better, but I finished running the entire 2.5-mile course.  Oddly, no one came across the finish line while we were chatting.  He checked.  I was better at distance running than I was aware. 

I continued to run after Basic Training, and into my early 20s.  I still walk to this day, but running – no thank you.  It’s hard on the knees, feet, and lungs.

Let me squeeze in one more story about running in Basic Training.  About halfway through the nine-week term, we were lined up one Saturday morning to march across the street to get a haircut.  The PX was across the street with a barber shop.  We had to pay for our own haircuts this time.  “A little off the top” was not funny.  We were told that we would be allowed to purchase anything we could afford in the PX, including beer.  I don’t remember the order in which we were to receive haircuts, but I was toward the end.  I didn’t have more than one beer. 

Once everyone had their haircut, and spent time buying cigarettes and books and radios and beer – lots of beer, we were told to line up outside.  There was some noticeable staggering.  Thinking that we were going to be ordered to do an about face and march across the street, we were surprised by the command that made us left face and march up the street.  About one-minute into the march Sgt. Green yelled “double time”.  I hope you know that “double time” means run.  We double-timed for about one-half mile before we came to a stop (excuse me, that would be a “halt!”).  We lost about half of the platoon.  They were bent over vomiting in consistently segmented proportions to how much beer they had drank.  A few more began heaving once we stopped.  I can’t recall how few of us were standing there waiting for the next order with no adverse effects of the haircuts, but it wasn’t more than eight of us.

I have a few more Basic Training stories, but it’s too much for this blog.  I may have one more blog on Marty’s Basic Training.

By the way, it is NOT boot camp.  That’s what you do in the Navy and Marines.  I hear it’s not as strenuous. 

Posted in General | Tagged | Leave a comment

What IS the Age of Maturity?

A recent question in CityView, a Des Moines alternative newspaper, asked readers: “Should the minimum age to purchase tobacco products be raised to 21 in Iowa?”  All sorts of answers ensued.  One reader said tobacco should be outlawed and marijuana should be legalized.  Another said that tobacco should be outlawed, altogether.  And, of course, someone compared purchasing cigarettes to buying guns.  Whatever.

The age of maturity should be consistent – for everything.

Whether buying cigarettes, purchasing an alcoholic beverage, voting, being tried in criminal court by a panel of your peers, entering the armed forces, gambling, or becoming married without parents’ permission, a person should know that the absolute legal dividing line is a particular age.

On July 1, 1971, the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified and placed into effect.  Section 1 of the 26th Amendment states: “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”  I couldn’t vote in a Presidential race until the fall of 1972, although I was already 22 years-old and a veteran.  I voted for Angela Davis (Communist Party candidate) out of spite.

I turned 21 three months after the 26th Amendment was ratified.

I was drafted into the Army at the age of nineteen.  I was told by the government at the age of 19 that I had to involuntarily commit to possibly sacrificing my life for the sake of this country.  But I couldn’t drink legally, and I couldn’t vote until after I was discharged from military service at the age of 21.  I had very little control over my own destiny.  The Amendment did little good for me.

The Iowa Legislature, under a heck of a lot of pressure from many of us who could now vote, succumbed to the mob mentality of our generation and lowered the age for drinking beer and intoxicating liquors from twenty-one to nineteen in 1972[1].  It was too late to affect me.

Cigarettes are good for no one.  I smoked most of my adult life.  I have since quit (15 years ago – and it wasn’t easy), but I remember the power of nicotine over my body and soul.  I could always buy cigarettes at the age of eighteen.  If I wanted, I could buy them at the age of 14 – and sometimes I did, but I didn’t smoke regularly until I was 18.  Actually, I began chewing before smoking.  There was never a tug-of-war over what age we should or should not smoke.  The tobacco lobby was too strong.  We now get to experience how the tobacco lobby has lost its power in the state Capitol and the halls of Congress.  If it can happen to the powerful tobacco lobby; it can happen to any lobbying monster.

If I can ruin my lungs at eighteen, get killed in a war at eighteen, have the mature and responsible thought process of getting married at eighteen without going through parental permission, have the power to get a tattoo, an abortion, enter into a contract, and all those other things that are legal for normal adults to acclaim, I should be able to drink a legal beer, gamble, and, when I was 18 – vote!

Well, as I recall, those were some of the arguments we used in 1972 when we weren’t happy with the age nineteen decision.  We wanted more.  And we got it.  The following year after the Iowa Legislature succumbed to lowering the drinking age to 19, it reduced the legal age for drinking once again.  Eighteen was now the legal age for a person to walk up to the bar and say give me Bud Light[2].  But not really, Bud Light wasn’t invented – yet.

The opposition to the eighteen argument by the terrible teetotalers was that seniors in high school would be going to school drunk.  Yeah, that was a possibility (and in very few circumstances – reality).  But think of it, they could be going to high school married, legally smoking (at the time, smoking was an acceptable societal habit), entering contracts, and “Oh, my God!  Voting!”

As predicted, alcohol in high school, or at least as soon as school let out for the day, was an occasional problem.  But it was a legal problem.  And it wasn’t as bad as people claimed it to be.  But my generation had yelled about as loud as we were going to get.  Those now entering the age of eighteen had taken everything for granted.  So, in 1978, the law of a legal drink reverted back to the age of nineteen[3].

I can’t remember the age of maturity for drinking going back to twenty-one, but the Iowa Code Annotated tells me it was 1997[4].  I thought it had happened at least 10, if not 15, years prior to that.

Today, legal and scientific scholars tell us that the mind does not fully develop until the age of 26.

In Miller v. Alabama, Associate Justice Elena Kagan relied upon three “significant gaps between juveniles and adults” in two previous cases [Roper v. Simmons, 543 U. S. 551 (2005) and Graham v. Florida, 560 U. S. 48, 68, 74 (2010)] that set precedent for declaring that life sentences without parole for juveniles was cruel and unusual punishment.

First, children have a “‘lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility,’” leading to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking. Roper, 543 U. S., at 569. Second, children “are more vulnerable . . . to negative influences and outside pressures,” including from their family and peers; they have limited “contro[l] over their own environment” and lack the ability to extricate themselves from horrific, crime-producing settings. Ibid. And third, a child’s character is not as “well formed” as an adult’s; his traits are “less fixed” and his actions less likely to be “evidence of irretrievabl[e] deprav[ity].” Id., at 570.

Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 471 (2012).

You can drive at the age of 16 and a car can be a potentially dangerous weapon.  You may enter the Armed Forces on your own at 18 and be handed a dangerous weapon.  However, you cannot drink or gamble legally until you are 21.  Is driving a car or carrying an assault weapon less dangerous than having a social drink and playing a game of blackjack?  I don’t think so.

Although legal, people my age cannot properly drive; they cannot seem to maneuver those middle turn lanes without having the rear of the auto block the traffic lane.  Some people my age cannot drink moderately.  Some cannot gamble without getting carried away.  Few still smoke, damaging their bodies and those around them.  I’ve seen horrible tattoos on several people my age.  Many, including myself, have been divorced – often the result of an immature decision.   And, oh my God, some adults vote for idiots.

I know many teenagers who make better decisions than a lot of folks in my generation.  Let’s face it, there should be one age of maturity.  I don’t care if it’s 16, 18, 21, 26, or 65, but let’s be consistent.

The age restriction that bothers me the most is the one in which a prosecuting attorney can try a minor in adult court.  What is so magic about a kid who cannot drive, get an abortion, wear a tattoo, enter the Marines, marry, smoke a cigarette, drink alcohol, gamble, or enter into a legal contract being tried as an adult in district court?  If we’re going to have juvenile court, let’s have juvenile court.

Kids are kids, one way or the other.  Justice is a difficult term to define.  Everyone has their own opinion of what they perceive as justice.  But justice must include equality.  If a kid cannot be conscripted into the Army, he or she should not be drafted into the adult judicial system.

This blog is dedicated to a woman who knew justice and fought for juvenile justice to her end.  Sister JoAnne Talarico.

[1] Acts 1972 (64 G.A.) ch. 1027, § 54, changed the legal age definition from twenty-one to nineteen years or more (later amended; see 1973 and 1978 amendment notes, post).

[2] Acts 1973 (65 G.A.) ch. 140, § 10, reduced the definition of “legal age” from nineteen to eighteen (later amended; see 1978 amendment note, post).

[3] Acts 1978 (67 G.A.) ch. 1069, § 1, substituted nineteen years for eighteen years in the definition of “legal age”.
[4] Acts 1997 (77 G.A.) ch. 126, § 1, in subsec. 19, substituted “twenty-one” for “nineteen”.


Posted in Criminal Justice, Fairness, Issues, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on What IS the Age of Maturity?

Cowboys, Indians & the Death Penalty

There are adults who fantasize about taking a human life.  Some dream about being the hero, saving a damsel in distress, being pictured front and center in the daily news, cheered and admired by peers.  Others just want to experience what it would feel like to end a life.  Recognizing that this is considered both an immoral and illegal act, the fantasy is shifted to being forced to end another life in order to protect your own life or the lives of others.  Career choices in public safety or the military could legitimize this vision and may also end with admiration from others who perceive these deaths as acts of courage.  Still there are others who don’t care or even think about restrictive laws or moral standards.  The desire is to experience the ultimate feeling of power and control, being the one responsible for ending a life.  Just like powerful mood-altering drugs or degrading, deviant sexual acts, the allure can be intoxicating.

Fantasies may change with the changing times.  Back in the day, little boys and occasionally girls (aka, tomboys) would play Cowboys and Indians.  Arguments would break out at the outset because being a cowboy was always the coveted role.  You got to be the hero by saving the town from the savages, shooting your pretend gun and triumphantly killing the hapless Indian, who was armed with only a plastic tomahawk or bow and arrow play set.  Children were simply playacting what was seen at the movies or on television. Eventually they would outgrow this game.  It became boring, unrealistic.  Nobody really died, they always got back up, dusted themselves off, ready to die again the next day.  Besides, there were other heroes to emulate: astronauts, sports figures, police officers, teachers and more.  Maybe the message taught by parents and highly respected religious leaders who routinely stressed that killing people was wrong took some of the joy out of the game.  Also, society shifted away from demonizing certain cultures, eventually embracing political correctness and let’s face it, Cowboys and Native Americans just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Technology has changed the game plan.  Today there are not just videos games, but graphic experiences to continue our lust for bloodshed.  You get to choose or acquire all types of weapons as you steer the course, killing bad guys or whatever else you encounter along the way.  A bonus is that you can play these games in the comfort of your home, close to junk food and sugary soft drinks.  Who needs or even wants fresh air and exercise?  It’s dangerous out there on the streets where people have ready access to real guns and other weapons.  Plus, political correctness has stifled free speech, making it unpleasant to even talk face to face with people who have developed very thin skins and become easily offended at every utterance.  Whereas in the past, children played together outside under the watchful eyes of the neighborhood, the young today can hole up in a bedroom or basement, remotely playing these deadly games with other people from around the world.  This new international culture has expanded the fantasy into older age groups.  It takes longer to outgrow these games and some gamers become completely isolated, emotionally vulnerable, addicted to the experience.  Speech is free again in this alternate reality that bleeds over into other forms of virtual social media.  It is as if the pressure from being politically correct has set forth a geyser of anger, frustration and at times blatant hatred towards the same groups it was originally designed to protect.

With church membership at an historical low, there is no longer that well-rehearsed repetitive lesson that killing people is wrong, immoral, an act against God.  Religious leaders have fallen from long held pedestals as sex scandals and corruption headline stories across the globe.  Other heroes from the past have followed the same fall from grace as the 24/7 news cycle repeatedly report sex scandals, corruption and other newsworthy sins.  Mass shootings have now become commonplace news and instead of being horrified, “Where?” and “How many were killed?” is the stoic reaction.   Stories of heinous acts against children, human trafficking, murder, rape and other atrocities puts pressure on law makers to find a solution to these problems.  But how do you legislate a sense of morality?

Since politicians may also carry scandalous pastimes, conveying a moral message of forgiveness and redemption becomes dicey.  Anger, revenge, empowerment, an “eye for an eye” draws impassioned constituent support, especially when horrific crimes against children occur.  Lawmakers can live the fantasy of being the cowboy who kills the savage.  They can execute the bad guys.

When reinstating the death penalty legislation was recently introduced in the Iowa House and Senate, religious leaders lined up to oppose the passage of this proposed law.  The only religion speaking out in favor of this proposal was a small sect of purported Christian ministers who embraced the Islam belief that ending a life goes against God, “unless prescribed by law”.  They believe that Pontius Pilate’s enacting the death penalty against Christ demonstrates God’s approval for man to selectively kill other people.  Jesus’ proclamation upon the cross for forgiveness of those involved in ending his life seems to have been lost in translation or deemed unimportant, not even worthy of entering the discussion.

Discussions need to take place so that the current atmosphere of anger and ill-will can be released and the healing process can begin for a country that has been fractured by the quest of public figures, ravenous for attention and power.  Where victims are no longer being used as political pawns, but instead are supported by a compassionate community that allows them to truly heal through forgiveness and understanding.  People will once again be able to say whatever comes to mind without having to tip-toe around a mine field of egg shells.  Well, we all have our fantasies.


Posted in Death Penalty, Issues | Tagged , | Comments Off on Cowboys, Indians & the Death Penalty

Run, Ryan, Run

It’s hard to believe that only forty-nine years ago this month I was in Basic Training in the Army. The Vietnam War had peaked just two years earlier with the Tet Offensive, but the war was far from over. Every one of us in Charlie Company thought of the possibility of going to Southeast Asia with targets on our backs. About a decade ago, I checked The Wall in Washington, D.C. Not one of my fellow draftees in my platoon from that May had his name on the monument. We were fortunate.

I had always thought that I didn’t go to Vietnam because I kept volunteering to go anywhere in the world, including Vietnam, while I was stationed in Virginia. When people asked me if I was stationed overseas, I said, “yes, I am stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia.” Not many people understood what I was saying, or perhaps they did believe like me that Virginia was a foreign county. In my opinion, it is possible to believe Virginia is a foreign sovereignty; it’s called a commonwealth, and many Virginians who I came in contact with thought that Iowa was a place where potatoes grew on trees.

It was many years after I was honorably discharged when I figured out why I was not sent to Vietnam, or any other foreign country besides Virginia. During bivouac (pronounce BIV-wack), I was assigned to guard a traffic barrier with a couple of other privates. We were given a password and told not to let anyone through unless they had the password.

Shortly after we were strategically positioned around the simple barrier, a cadre of staff, known to all of us, walked up the hill to our position. I yelled: “Halt, who is there?” An assistant drill instructor said, “that’s not how you do it. Here, give me your weapon.” I gave it to him. That little incident was most likely the reason why I didn’t get to see the world beyond Hopewell or Petersburg, VA. Hopewell, home to several chemical plants that stained the water black, and Petersburg, where the Civil War continued into the 1970s.

As I look back at my Army career, I notice a couple other incidents that may have led to my exile to Virginia. Physical training is an essential part of Basic Training. The military used to grade a soldier on his ability to perform certain physical accomplishments. The incentive for this scoring is an automatic promotion from the rank of E-1 to E-2 upon leaving Basic Training. I blew my perfect 40 score. No one in my platoon received a perfect 40.

Not an athlete in high school, I shined brightly in physical activity in my nine weeks of hell in Washington. There are four physical activities in which each soldier was measured at that time. A draftee (I refuse to call us recruits) had to make it through the low-crawl pit and back within a certain time period. If the (unwilling) participant could make it down and back without raising his butt to a level ripe for a sniper attack, he received a perfect 10 points. If the time was less than required, a private would have points deducted. The low-crawl pit was also used to punish. I actually had more practice than the other guys. It shouldn’t be surprising that I earned a perfect score of 10.

There was a second test in which the participant had to zig-zag around some wooden structures. I might compare it to orange cones that college football players avoid while participating in the NFL Combine held in Indianapolis every year. But of course, these structures were not orange, they were camo and hard to see (tee-hee). I think the ideal time for a perfect score of 10 was something like 27 seconds. I made it in 23. Are you adding up these scores? So far, I’m at 20.

The third obstacle was a line of bars hung about 10 or 12 feet off the ground. There’s no doubt you’ve seen these things on playgrounds everywhere. We were to move from rung to rung in 60 seconds and accomplish 76 rungs. I slipped off the 60-something rung. Observers help you up when you begin. If you slip off, it’s up to you to get back on. I can’t jump 10 feet off a sand surface and grab a bar. I had to take a score that was something like an 8.

The final event was the mile run. Two tall guys who claimed to be Nebraska track stars were offered a case of beer each if one of them could break the mile run in fewer than 6 minutes – the time for a score of 10. The drill sergeant who made the offer told them he had never had one of his recruits run the mile in fewer than 6 minutes and he saw this as a great opportunity. We were allowed to take off our button-down shirts and run in T-shirts, but running in army boots and fatigues with a belt was a challenge.

The track was a quarter of a mile. Four times around was a mile. I started in the middle of the pack. On the first pass, the two Nebraska guys were way out front. I may have been 5 or 6 guys behind them. On the second pass, both of them were in front of me, but I was gaining. On the third pass, I had left them both behind me and was out front. As I came around the final turn, I could hear the captain yelling at me. “Run, Ryan, Run. You can make it.” Aside from comparing myself to Forest Gump, I thought he meant that I could make it without falling down. I began to sprint, surprising myself. I didn’t know how close I was to the 6:00 minute mark.

5 minutes and 56 seconds. That was my time. I walked up under the lone shade tree, lit a cigarette and asked the drill sergeant if I could have a case of beer. Sgt. Green (I’ll change his name from Greene to protect his identity) did not think I was funny. Now, I believe that these confrontations I had with Drill Sergeant Green may have been recorded for future Army brass to read. That probably didn’t help me in my quest to be stationed in the Bahamas.

I did not make E-2 out of Basic Training. 10 guys in my platoon of Charlie Company were given promotions. None of them scored more than my 38 on the physical agility tests.

There’re so many more interesting things to tell you about my Army life, particularly my problems with Drill Sergeant Green. Perhaps I was his problem because he didn’t intimidate me. However, ever since I can remember, I have not been good at conforming or taking orders. The person who coined “question authority” had a groupie in me.

Again, please don’t thank me for my service. I often claimed that I single-handedly ended the draft. The Army really didn’t want any more men like me. But I’m proud to have been able to fulfill my duty to my country, no matter how hard we both tried to understand each other.

Believe me, there’s more to come.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Run, Ryan, Run

It’s a Matter of Taste

Twice a year, we like attending the Planned Parenthood Book Sale in Des Moines at the Fairgrounds. This past visit we acquired a shopping cart full of books for less than $10.00.

Some people exclusively use Kindle, and many more buy recent books from Amazon or local book stores. Used book stores like Half Price Books is a good source for reading material, too. However, there are some things you can get at the semi-annual book sale at the Fairgrounds that you cannot find anywhere else. I suppose it’s a matter of taste where you find and purchase your favorite literature. Some of the best cookbooks we have bought came from the Planned Parenthood Book Sale.

One of the bargains we picked up this spring was a collection of recipes from a cookbook put together by “The Tall Corn Chapter of Club Managers”. Inside Private Club Kitchens (Jumbo Jack’s Cookbooks, Audubon Media Corporation, 301 Broadway, Audubon, IA 50025. Printed 2004) contains recipes created by chefs and culinary teams from some of Iowa’s top country clubs. Some of the recipes will feed sixty, and some will serve 2-4.

We perused the book prior to Easter, looking for a meal that is not traditional such as ham, or lamb, or popcorn and toast (oops, wrong holiday). We found a simple recipe for Chicken Marsala. The recipe called for “2 oz. clarified butter”. Normally, I would use regular butter. However, I remember making clarified butter (also called Ghee) in the mess hall while I was in the Army. I didn’t make it, but my particular mess hall had two Army cooks who were chefs on the East Coast before enlisting in the Army. One of them made it.

I Googled the process of making clarified butter and found out that it is really easy to make. Another discovery was that clarified butter is 100% butterfat – simply, an oil like vegetable oil, canola, coconut, and peanut oil. Clarified butter has a “higher smoke point, a longer shelf life, and [is] a more versatile substance for making everything from stir-fries to sauces.” It’s butter without the water and milk solids that burn easily. I made some.

Since making the Marsala Chicken on Easter, we have been using the clarified butter in many dishes we prepare. My favorite use is to pop popcorn with the oil. No need to add butter; the flavor is incorporated into the final product. With the milk solids that were left over, I made honey butter.

The clarified butter, the leftover milk solids, etc., may seem very fattening, and I won’t pretend that it isn’t, but it’s not that much more fattening than the oils I mentioned above. In my opinion, it’s more flavorful.

Here is the recipe we used for Easter dinner. It is easy to make, doesn’t take long, and when it’s finished – it looks fantastic on a plate. It may become a tradition in our house.

Marsala Chicken

Chef Alan Clark, Sioux City Country Club


8 oz. chicken breast

2 oz. clarified butter

1 oz. salt & pepper

1 pt. sliced mushrooms

6 oz. Marsala wine

4 oz. heavy cream

1 oz. brown sugar

Dredge chicken breast in flour. Sauté in clarified butter on both sides until browned, season with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté: add sliced mushrooms, Marsala wine and brown sugar. Reduce by ¾. Add heavy cream and reduce until consistency becomes a caramelized glaze. Yield: 2 servings.

We served it with fresh steamed asparagus from our garden, wild rice salad, and hard rolls with honey butter. Because we have leftover Marsala wine, we will have to make this dish at least 3-4 times a year.



Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on It’s a Matter of Taste

Flaws in the Laws – Part III: 2nd Degree Kidnapping

“He got off on a technicality.” This is a quip that drives me crazy whenever someone walks away from a courtroom in which the person otherwise should have been found guilty. Just what is a technicality?

A technicality can be the absence of a comma, a misplaced comma, or any other piece of punctuation that makes a statute mean something different from what legislators intended. It can be that law enforcement or prosecutors violated a fundamental constitutional right. Or, it can mean that a procedural error existed; such as not following a specific provision of the Rules of Evidence, the Rules or Criminal Procedure, or any other aspect of the judicial system. This essay is going to focus on another “Flaw in the Law”, the plain language of a statute as interpreted by a court.

This issue was the object of an article in the Justice Reform Consortium newsletter of a year ago. During the 2018 legislative session, Rep. Mary Wolfe (@RepMaryWolfe) tweeted that “SF 2230 enhances the penalty for kidnapping a minor from Class “C” (10 years) to Class “B” (25 years) UNLESS kidnapper is a parent – not a parent of the kidnapped minor, just a parent – whose sole purpose is to assume custody of the minor – not legal custody, just custody.  After explaining this to the members of the Iowa House of Representatives, the bill passed 82-16.”  Words do matter.  See for yourself.

The Iowa Code now contains the following language:

710.3 Kidnapping in the second degree.

  1. Kidnapping where the purpose is to hold the victim for ransom, where the kidnapper is armed with a dangerous weapon, or where the victim is under eighteen years of age other than a kidnapping by a parent or legal guardian whose sole purpose of the kidnapping is to assume custody of a victim under eighteen years of age, is kidnapping in the second degree. (Emphasis added.)

That word “a” is going to come back and haunt someone. A smart attorney is going to get a defendant off on a technicality someday when the kidnapper is “a” parent (or “a” legal guardian), but not the parent of the child kidnapped.

You may, or a prosecutor may, argue ‘til the sun goes down that the Iowa Legislature didn’t mean what it enacted, but that it meant the exception applied to “the” parent of “the” child. It shouldn’t make any difference what the legislators meant, the Court is going to determine the outcome on what the statute says in viewing the language on statutory construction. Based on a 2004 Iowa Supreme Court case, Auen v. Alcoholic Beverages Div., 679 NW 2d 586 (Iowa 2004), “[t]he goal of statutory construction is to determine legislative intent.” The Court determines “legislative intent from the words chosen by the legislature, not what it should or might have said.. . . . Under the guise of construction, an interpreting body may not extend, enlarge or otherwise change the meaning of a statute.” Auen at 590 (Citations omitted.)

Representatives Mary Lynn Wolfe (D-Clinton) and Rick Olson (D-Des Moines) attempted to amend the bill in order to make it more precise in its meaning. However, the “technicality” remained in the bill because of a powerful virtue – control! Many technicalities are the result of a political party’s control over a piece of legislation. Rep. Olson’s amendment would have fixed the bill’s defect, and would have included a limited number of specified family members (besides “the child’s” parent) that would have been exempted from the wide scope of the bill’s terms.  As he mentioned during debate: “This is a common sense amendment.”

Nonetheless, the floor manager of the bill, Rep. Ross Paustian (R- Walcott), said that Rep. Olson’s amendment “waters down the bill”.  Actually, refusal to amend the senate file opened up the flood gates.

Rep. Paustian’s opening statement appeared to be a word-for-word description prepared by the Iowa County Attorneys Association (ICAA).  It was the same explanation heard during a subcommittee meeting.

It’s bad enough that 82 representatives would cast a vote in support of this defective bill, but all 50 senators voted to pass it.  Does no one in the Senate pay attention to the “plain language” of legislation?  We’ll be honest.  We didn’t recognize the serious flaw until we noticed Rep. Mary Wolfe’s tweet.

How can a legislator vote in favor of a bill that is obviously flawed?  Were legislators not listening to the debate?  Surely, it was brought up in caucus.  How can an association made up of lawyers, the Iowa County Attorneys Association, insist that the bill NOT be modified, even though it cannot be enforced as written?

Someday, a person who kidnaps a child, “whose sole purpose of the kidnapping is to assume custody of” the child, will walk away from a courtroom because the person is “a” parent, although not “the” parent of the child who was kidnapped, and people will gasp at the thought of the monster walking the streets, freely. The media will tell you that he was found “not guilty” because of a technicality; the legislators will blame the courts; the ICAA will deny it had anything to do with it, but will assure everyone that it can fix it; and you might say, “I read about that once, but can’t remember where.”

Posted in Criminal Justice, General | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Flaws in the Laws – Part III: 2nd Degree Kidnapping