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What Would People Think?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I like this comic. Tom Tomorrow makes a good point without going over the edge and using the Virgina Tech tragedy for political hay.

I also like this comic. Too bad I was late for that meeting.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How Can They Live With Themselves? Here's How.

I could talk about Carhart II, the abortion case, but I'm not in the mood to piss off 90% of my readers by stating my well-known opinion. At least, not tonight.

I could talk about Virginia Tech, but Christy and I have been discussing writing a joint blog post...so I hope we can do that later.

No, today I want to talk about the Duke Lacrosse players who, it turns out, were falsely accused of rape. I've been shying away from the topic since Day 1. But spectacle of the state attorney general affirming their innocence - not just saying there wasn't enough proof, but actually affirming their innocence - is enough to make this would-be criminal defense lawyer proud.

It was the lawyers who scrutinized the evidence...who exposed unethical DA Mike Nifong's corruption and blatant interference with the evidence....and who finally cleared their names. I especially liked this point made in the Wall Street Journal:

Our criminal justice system does not rely solely on the fairness of the police and prosecutors to get things right. In every criminal case, there is a professional whose only obligation is to scrutinize what the police and prosecutor have done. This "professional" is a lawyer. The next time you hear a lawyer joke, maybe you'll think of the lawyers who represented these three boys and it won't seem so funny. You probably can't picture their faces and don't know their names. (They include Joe Cheshire, Jim Cooney, Michael Cornacchia, Bill Cotter, Wade Smith and the late Kirk Osborn.) That's because they put their zealous representation of their clients ahead of their own egos and fame. Without their lawyering skills, we would not today be speaking so confidently of their clients' innocence.

These lawyers held the prosecutor's feet to the fire. Their skillful questioning at pre-trial hearings revealed the prosecutor's misconduct that eventually forced him to give up control of the case and now threatens his law license. They uncovered compelling exculpatory evidence and made it available to the press; they let their clients and their families air their story in the national media.


Do you suppose that lawyers like these gained their skills only representing the innocent? Criminal lawyers are constantly asked how they can live with themselves defending those guilty of serious crimes. The full and complete answer ought to be that, because we can never be sure who is guilty and who is innocent until the evidence is scrutinized, the only way to protect the innocent is by effectively defending everyone.

The "how could you live with yourself" question is one I often received when I mentioned my interest in becoming a criminal defense lawyer (not knowing at the time I was going to end up a labor lawyer). This question came from people I knew and respected - like Chris Raab, husband of fellow blogger Monica Raab. It was sometimes hard to articulate an answer to "how could you defend rapists and murderers?" Well, now I have my answer. Just read this blog post and look at the Duke Lacrosse case, and you'll know why criminal defense is a worthy profession.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Time for Weeping....

Eight years ago Friday, the massacre at Columbine scarred the collective consciousness of a teenage generation. Now even more people - kids my little brother's age - die in another senseless killing at Virginia Tech.

There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. . . a
time to mourn and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4.

There will be a time to draw lessons from this....perhaps something about gun control or the psychological help available to college students. But now, I can't think about that. Now, it is only time to mourn.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:15

My heart and prayers go out to those who have lost loved ones and those who have lived through this horror. At times I can't believe how desensitized I am to all the pain in the world. Perhaps it takes tragedy striking those I most identify with to clue me in to suffering.

Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn and horror grips
Jeremiah 8:21

I still identify with students. I was one only a few months ago. I still think of them as "my people."

I have no words of wisdom and few words of reflection at this point. But let us mourn. Let us never reach that place in our hearts where we do not mourn the pain of others.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Paging someone who understands the working of the Internet better than I!

Can someone explain why my recent post on the Crucifixion, Christians, and Jews was linked to by this random post called "poetry for children"? Is it just because I had the word "poetry" at the end of my blog post?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Die Elitist Die!

(Told you this post was coming soon.)

No, I don't actually want anybody to die. That would be mean and, contrary to popular perception, un-Christian.

But, in keeping with the American spirit, I am incredibly annoyed by elitism....whether it comes from those rich, Harvard-educated fools who couldn't appreciate how awesome my friend Kenny is (as he related to me in an essay he once wrote), film critics who think they are above the average moviegoer looking for escapism just because they happen to have seen deeper films, or the kind of people I write about in this song.

"Die Elitist Die!" (gotta have the exclamation point) is a song I wrote (with ample help from Mike) about people who don't like mainstream music because it is mainstream. It's about all those people who look rebellious, yet think and act remarkably the same. Mike told me once about a friend who had every Modest Mouse song on his computer EXCEPT "Float On"....because, you know, "Float On" got radio play. It was somehow infected because it was listened to and appreciated by the same peons who like Linkin Park.

Having never in my lifetime been part of the in-crowd, I'm still increasingly annoyed by the "out crowd" who seem no more individualistic, but a hell of a lot more arrogant about it. Why not just be yourself? If you like something mainstream, that's ok. If you like some unheard-of garage band, that's awesome. Just don't think you're better than anybody else because of your tastes. My best friends are folks who, after long struggles of their own, are defiantly themselves.

Anyways, these rantings were swirling around in my mind when I thought of a golden line for a song: "You Indie fans can keep all of your damn street cred." Unlike some songs, this one didn't just flow out of me. It took months of trying out different lyrics to capture the sense of being....well....defiantly "sold-out." Or maybe defiantly mainstream. Then it took two "fiddling-around-with-the-music" sessions to create a supremely catchy pop-rock tune: one with Mike in Dunedin, FL before I got married, the other with Mike and Dan last weekend sitting in a park in Atlanta.

This song turned out to be rather complex (for us) musically, but hopefully one day we can record it...or Mike can if he feels like putting the work into it. (Hey, Mike! My birthday is November 28. That should give you enough time! Hint, hint.) But I really enjoyed writing it and I've already got Christy humming it to herself, so I know it's catchy.

So, without further ado....because frankly I've already included too much "ado" by way of introduction.....here's the song.

Die, Elitist, Die!

Lyrics by Ben Stark and Mike Mott

Music by Mike Mott and Dan Ortiz

Intro: D5, F5, G5 end on A, E

Verse: D, A, G, F-G

Chorus: as below

I listened to my Creed CD the other day

Played air guitar, enjoyed the sound

I prefer their mediocrity to your cliché

There’s a reason why you’re underground

You follow different shepherds but you’re all still sheep

Iconoclast right off the shelf

You call yourself a rebel but rebellion’s cheap

Just fifteen bucks to buy a self

D, C, G (alternate electric and acoustic)

“Die, elitist, die” is my cry as I listen to some pop

(Na na-na na-na na-na, na na-na na-na na-na)

Behind these hazel eyes lies a guy that’s still fighting pink robots

(Na na-na na-na na-na, na na-na na-na na-na)

Being anti-cool is the rule, why can’t you just be yourself?

(Na na-na na-na na-na, na na-na na-na na-na)

Oh well, what the hell, let’s rebel just like everybody else

A, E

I wish I could sell out so I could piss you off

I’d laugh at your faux-righteous hate

So let the sayers “nay” and let the scoffers scoff

Why bother to pretend I’m great?


(over intro)

I don’t why I ever even tried

To lie and cry and buy my way

To the hipster throne that I’ve never even known

I need a lyric here

Damn, I’ve blown it!

(A, then Dan’s arpeggio thing with Dm, F, G over intro chords)

I only wrote this song so I could make some bread

The girls are nice, and so’s the dough

You indie fans can keep all of your damn street cred


(close with a ROCKING solo over chorus chords)

Movies I'm Dying To See But Don't Know If I Will

Grindhouse - Come on...it's Tarantino and Rodriguez. Those names mean that, if nothing else, it will not be boring.

Amazing Grace - Probably the movie on my list that I'm least excited to see. But I'll probably be joining my church's task force to deal with issues of human trafficking in Atlanta...so I need to be inspired by a good anti-slavery movie.

The Namesake - looks like an absolutely fascinating family drama. And, yes, I'm curious to see how Kal Penn holds up in a movie which is not a stupid comedy. Based on the trailer, I'd say he does rather well.

The Lookout - Combine Joseph Gordon-Levitt (star of Brick) with Scott Frank (first-time director; writer of Dead Again - which you've just gotta see - adapted Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Minority Report for the screen) and you've got me hooked. Looks kinda noir-ish, too...which is always a big draw for me.

First Snow - Combine Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, Memento, The Proposition), philosophy of death, and one review saying it evokes noir and.....well, I think filmmakers are starting to figure out what hooks me in.

Coming very soon: "Die Elitist Die!"

UPDATE: Add Black Book to that list based on this review alone.

UPDATE 2: Rob Zombie is making a remake of Halloween. Yes, the man behind House of 1,000 Corpses is remaking the classic of the horror genre....the movie that valued suspense over idiotic blood and gore. Looks like it's time for Ruining Classic Movies 101.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Some Musings on the Crucifixion, Christians, and Jews

Just got back from a Maundy Thursday service. Basically, it's a celebration of Christ's Last Supper with his disciples and, in some churches, kind of stands in for a Good Friday service.

Hearing the Scripture readings about the Crucifixion, I was struck by the juxtaposition of 2 verses: "His blood is on us and on our children" and "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

The first verse has been the basis for the centuries of anti-semitism via the detestable doctrine of "blood libel." Basically, Christians took it upon themselves to not forgive that which Jesus himself asked God to forgive. Using the "on our children" language, Christians blamed the entire Jewish people for Jesus' freely-chosen death and persecuted them the most un-Christ-like manner possible.

But the blood libel doctrine misses the point.

As, of course, did the people standing around calling for Jesus' death. Many sermons have been preached on the observers of the Crucifixion and their mocking call to "Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" What those people didn't get was that he could come down at any time...but he didn't need to prove himself to them or anyone. He was there to do God's work and save the world, and no arrogant mockery was going to stop him. What the people didn't realize was that, in what seemed to them his moment of ultimate defeat, Christ won his greatest victory....striking the ultimate blow for love over hate, sin, and death.

In the same way, both the mockers at the cross and the anti-semitic teachers of "blood libel" entirely miss the point. You see, because of Jesus's plea to God to forgive his persecutors, they couldn't even call on themselves the guilt they asked for! They were powerless even to condemn themselves...at the very moment they thought they had the power to condemn Jesus. It's obviously ridiculous to blame the entire Jewish people for the actions of a few people thousands of years ago. What's less obvious is that we can't even condemn the very people who called for Jesus's death! Jesus already forgave them in the midst of the act.

Come on, all you anti-semitic Christians. You really want to go toe-to-toe with the Son of God on this one?

What a model of love we have to follow! I don't know about you, but I might find it hard to forgive my murderers. But I'm inspired to try to love that much.

[Coming soon: non-religious songs and religious poetry. Or maybe vice versa, if I feel like it.]