A comment from a reader named David brought this story to my attention. Marty the Magician got a notice from the USDA about the fact that he needs a disaster plan for his rabbit (see video for a glimpse of the hapless bunny). Not in case the performance goes pear-shaped. In case something else goes wrong. Now, what sort of disaster plan is Marty supposed to devise that he hasn't already thought up? Make sure you take all living props with you if you evacuate? One would think he's already provided for that.
As I was reading the Washington Post story and considering the background of the rule, I started to get the eerie feeling that I had heard the story before. And I had, sort of. The first or second post of this blog was "Magician Needs Federal Permit For Rabbit." Different prestidigitateur--same sort of problem.
After WaPo publicized magician Marty Hahne's problem, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack decided to review the agency's requirement that magicians have disaster plans--at least magicians who don't have operations the size of David Copperfield's. No word, though, on how long the review will take. Meanwhile, Mr. Hahne has to file his plan for the bunny (whose name is Charlie, by the way) by July 29th.
Update: Here at the American Bar Association Journal.
Punxsutawney Phil can go back to unencumbered sleep for another eleven months. That's assuming he actually woke up to read that indictment against him which emenated from neighboring Ohio. Butler County, Ohio, DA Mike Gmoser has dismissed the indictment against Phil for deliberately mis-forecasting spring, saying Phil has a defense--someone else is taking the rap. That someone would be Phil's buddy, Bill Deeley, who says he misread Phil's weather predictions. I maintain Phil made no predictions, and if he did, he didn't mean them, and if he did mean them, no one should have taken them seriously, and if someone did take them seriously, that is that person's choice. Move along, move along, nothing to see here.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the prosecuting attorney of Butler County, tired of bad weather, wants to indict Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby (yup, the magic groundhog), for "purposely, and with prior calculation and design" misleading people about the date that spring would start. And he wants Phil done away with. Permanently. Here's a link to a copy of the indictment.
Now, first of all, Mr. Gmoser, the DA in this story here, has clout in Ohio, I admit, but I hasten to point out that Phil lives in Pennsylvania. Extradition is a problem. Will a Pa. judge okay shipping a groundhog across the border for maliciousness (and Mr. Gmoser will have to make a case for faulty forecasting and pernicious prediction by the grumbly groundhog)? Do human laws apply to marmots?
Second, is Mr. Gmoser suggesting that a whistle pig is not protected by the First Amendment? That Phil's expressive speech of recognizing his shadow, and thus "predicting spring" is not protected by the First Amendment? Check out cases such as Rushman v. City of Milwaukee (959 F. Supp. 1040, 1997) (false statements fraudulent only if the speaker has knowledge that the statement cannot come true).
I cry fowl! Couldn't Mr. Sowerby argue that whatever humans interpret from his conduct is our problem? After all, human beings force him through this event on the 2 of February to see if he sees his shadow or not. It isn't really his idea. Who decided to engage the furry Mr. Sowerby in this venture? Did he ever ask anybody to believe his predictions, such as they are? Aren't those beliefs and assumptions about whether a groundhog can predict the coming of spring by seeing his shadow or not, amusing as they are, really quite inane? Well, then, why blame the groundhog?
There are probably some criminal defenses available, but it's Friday and I'm tired.
Fourth, how much gmoser could a woodchuck chuck?
Yes, the indictment is a joke. At least, I think it is. But I hope no one goes sciurid hunting, hoping for a bounty. That would make a tragedy out of what is Mr. Gmoser's attempt at humor.
Thirteen reasons to adopt a black cat, including their sartorial elegance (well, that accounts for a number of the reasons) and the fact that, on the other hand, their color puts people off. At adoption time, black cats are often the last felines to find homes. Poor kitties. Black cats have also traditionally been associated with the black arts, with witchcraft, and with evil doings. Snopes.com delves into the question of whether black cats (and other animals) actually disappear with more frequency around Hallowe'en but notes that many animal shelters cut back on allowing feline, especially black cat, adoptions in October.