Monday, June 30, 2008

Tomorrow is my birthday.

I'll be 26.

My plans: Gym, citation seminar, work, school, cake with parents. Other than work, it's identical to the very busy birthday of an over-scheduled four year old.

I suppose you're supposed to reflect on how time passes when you turn 25, but I was just too damned busy. The last birthday I had time to really reflect on was 23; before that, 19. I'm always a little late.

I really can't think about where I am, or what I thought it would be to be 26. I definitely thought I'd have lived in more than three cities; I thought I'd be in some fantastic, creative, unconventional career- instead, I've discovered that really turns me on is a career which requires pantyhose, waking up early, predictability, and good behavior: tax law. Or, just the law, period. There are white-tee-shirt lawyers out there, and certainly tons of fake-indian-tunic-and-crinkly pants lawyers- but I know I'm not going to be one of them. I'll be lucky to be a no-stockings-required-in-august lawyer. I really pictured barefoot-and-typing, not extra shoes under the desk...

But no regrets.

No regrets.

Except I never really learned what shade of lipstick actually looks good on me. And I never traveled to Europe on my own, or went to a nude beach, or made homemade donuts. There are a few other things I'd like to do before I hit the 2-7, but they're totally private.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chinese nipples.

"Chinese nipples" is STILL the search term that brings the most people to my blog, thus proving that the internet is, after all, just a machine that exchanges credit card numbers for a tingly feeling in the down-there.

Of course, there are other things that bring people to the internet. Searching for a doctor to prescribe ritalin, viagra, or phenteramine without an actual visit, diagnosis, or screening. There's also the bottomless human appetite for fear-mongering- topics like which foods, activities and household pets may put you at risk for cancer, date rape, autism, fibromyalgia, telemarketing, and organ theft are immortal. After sex, drugs and fear, there's only one last thing left for the internet:

fat. baby. animals.

Don't believe me? This video has been viewed more than three million times. Three million.

That's five times the population of vermont.

I just don't get the internet. But I sure do love fat baby animals.

Weird little case.

In Providence's Federal Hill neighborhood, there's a building my boyfriend and I call "Crack School," which I've now learned is actually the Grove Street School...

It's abandoned, long-term, hard-core abandoned. More than that, it's half torn down.

It turns out that the reason it's been left, for a year, half-torn down- is because the city is trying to prevent the building from being pulled down. In fact, the city wants the owner of the building to re-build the parts that have been torn down. (Registration Required).

That's not the weird part; well, it's a little weird to imagine that a city would demand that a long-abandoned building, half-rubble, be restored to its former condition- but that's Providence. That's New England city politics. Court battles are fought over minor infractions against city procedures; offenses against minor fiefdoms within the bureaucracy are never forgotten. It's not unheard of, in my town, for example, for someone to be denied a liquor license over something their father said to a city counselor fifteen years before they were born. It's not impossible that the owner of the building here outbid someone's cousin for the lot, and will thus never obtain any benefit from the fair city of providence ever again.

The weird part is the way that the owner of the building has attempted to get the permit to finish demolishing crack school. The building owner went to court for a writ of mandemus, an order which requires a public official to perform a non-discretionary function. In this case, the building owner wanted the trial court judge to issue an order requiring a building official to issue a demolition permit.

These writs are strictly common-law, older than our nation, and very rarely used. They're rarely used because in most cases, a really good argument can be made that the given public official's function IS discretionary, and therefore political, and therefore, to issue a court order requiring action would violate separation of powers.

So this is weird. And it's a desperate little move from the property owner's lawyer, and it's even weirder that the lower court judge granted the owner's request and issued the writ of mandemus- essentially ruling that even though demolition permits require assessment of many factors, and demolition permits are not an entitlement, because it's city practice to issue demolition permits in cases like these, then the function was no longer discretionary, but compulsory.

A very, very weird ruling- but, as they say, hard cases make bad law. You've got to wonder what's really going on here. And I bet the Rhode Island Supreme Court was wondering that, too...and that's why they have forced mediation on the parties. By forcing mediation, the parties may be able to agree to tear down Crack School before it gets hit by lightning again, or before anyone tries to climb around in there, and gets killed, or before anyone sues anyone for creating a public nuisance- and the Rhode Island Supreme Court is able to avoid ruling on the lower court's definition of "non-discretionary function."

More photos of Crack School/ the Grove Street School are at the Rhode Islander's flickr photostream .


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ethical Quandary.

So last week, I was in a weird position.

A fellow student asked for help with some legal research; nothing too involved, and nothing relating to classwork. Essentially, it involved figuring out the requirements to make a motion, what papers needed to be filed along with the motion, what the standards were for the motion being granted. No big deal.

Except that this motion involved an aspect of Massachusetts law that is in dire need of reform. And it wasn't just an academic exercise; this classmate was doing the research for an attorney that she was working for outside of school.

So I pointed my classmate to a legal encyclopedia, figuring that pointing someone in the general direction of pre-existing answers is so remote from actually giving someone an answer, or rendering material help to the outside attorney's actual clients...that my feelings about the law on this topic were not only irrelevant, but kinda self-indulgent, too. It's not as if Mass Practice is some kind of secret weapon; it takes up several shelves in the library, and is often considered the most-consulted secondary source in the state. So I told my classmate about my ethical problems with the law, and I helped her anyway.

Then my classmate couldn't quite find the answers in the encyclopedia.

So she asked for a bit more help. I actually found the relevant passages, and the forms, and noted what the relevant law was on the topic. And, again, it would be self-indulgent to imply that the research help I did was anything irreplicable- the research took me about- two and a half minutes.

But, did I do the right thing?

If people are against things, say, laws creating tax shelters, or the old-timey laws that protected married women's property from creditors, for ethical reasons - is it ethical to help others take advantage of them? How removed can the help be before you're compromising yourself? Can you render help to someone who wouldn't have the authority to make the decision to not exploit this law, or this regulation? My fellow student didn't have the choice between using this law, and counseling a client to use another ... she had the choice between completing the work assigned to her, and not completing it. The attorney would have probably groaned, picked up the same volume I did, and came to the same result.

But, in rendering legal services, many of these decisions lie with the client, not the attorney, so the attorney may claim that even they don't have the authority to choose to exploit or not exploit a certain law. They may argue that zealous advocacy actually requires the use of this or that law, regardless of personal ethics.

So it may not be self-indulgent to worry about the ethics of helping someone with something, even if the help rendered is not unique, and even if the person who is helped doesn't have the authority to avoid the controversial tactic.

So what do you think? Does it matter whether or not you're personally going to profit from giving this advice?

Follow your ethics?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thinking about being a lawthing...

I've got two interviews this week for my next round of internships.

I'd be happy to get either of them; I'd even be delighted to get neither of them. Basically, either internship will pay a great deal of money, but I've applied for some that pay a great deal more.

And by a great deal of money, I mean more money than I have ever been paid, in my life. Not just more per hour, but if I were to get one of these internships, over the length of the internship, I'd make more money than I've made before in my life, total. Period.

These figures have got me thinking: am I worth it? and is the work worth it?

The work of a lawthing is not the hardest work I've ever done; it's not got the worst hours, and it's not the dullest, or thus far, the most distasteful. By and large, it's not just more pleasant, but easier, than the work I did as a barista.

Yes. Easier.

I think everyone would expect more pleasant; after all, being a barista does occasionally involve spills of hot things, cleaning up various goos of various origins, long hours on your feet, customers who can be demanding, demeaning, bitter, and ungrateful...while lawthing work mostly takes place in fairly clean offices, seated on a chair, with periods set aside for eating and staring at things.

But being a lawthing, even a really, really good lawthing, as I have turned out to be- is easier than being a mediocre barista, which is what I was. Being a barista required knowing what was going on, all around me, on multiple levels- predicting what to do in the next fifteen seconds, the next five minutes, and the next four hours. No time for dicking around; any mistake is immediately evident. Well, most mistakes are immediately evident -one time a trainee used the urn-brush to clean the toilets. It would have been nice if that were known sooner. Like, before someone cleaned the coffee urns.

Being a lawthing is like...being a high school student. Deadlines are written down and known in advance. Nothing is turned over without exhaustive checking and re-checking. It's research, writing, interviewing, responding, and minor administrative stuff...nothing but the actual legal reasoning, and to some extent, the writing is in any way difficult. And it's interesting stuff, too.

So at the coffee shop, I made no more than $8.44 an hour, plus tips. None of the internships I have applied for will pay me less than three times that amount. So- was I underpaid at the coffeeshop? Will I be overpaid in the fall?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Last friday-

I killed these.

We who are about to die...

With this.

Boiling Water.

I'm so bad-ass.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gloucester High School.

Ever read a news story and think "Wow, Dick Wolf is going to make some poor writer's guild motherfucker turn that into a 'Law and Order: SVU' episode by noon tomorrow." Sometimes, things just cry out to be "ripped from the headlines."

Generally, anything that combines the three magic ingredients:

1. Favorite victims. Somebody demographically attractive to the psyche. Children are best, teenagers will do, women are acceptable, upper-class is ideal, but middle class will do and white will suffice. Essentially, news that happens to people as unlike urban minority young men as possible is the most marketable kind of news, and thus, ripe for the ripping.

2. Sex. Ideally, there will be actual sex, somewhere involved. A sex act is best, including rape, sodomy, or molestation. Next best is things that are tangentially related to sex, but isn't actually a sex act- the results of sex or the need to avoid sexualized environments. A distant third best would be something unrelated to sex, but having to do with sexualized parts of the body- breasts, genitals, buttocks.

3. Something weird to spice it up, and add distance or a feeling of superiority for the viewer: a strange religion, drug involvement, something culturally, geographically, or ethnically distant.

For example, take the "Dateline: NBC- To Catch a Predator" phenomenon. It presents a sympathetic victim (a young, middle-class white woman, pretending to be a young, middle class white pre-teen), sex (the predator assumes he's going to participate in a sex act, and may have already been...participating in one...on the way over), and spice (internet chat rooms- our new favorite danger).

Another example- the goodole texas polygamy raid. It involved young, white teenage girls (and some children!). It involved sex- not a sex act, but the looming specter of child marriage, which implies sex. It involved that third element- a religion so different that every woman capable of menstruating has to wear her hair like Alice on the Brady Bunch.

As a blast from the past, remember the whole pre-teen blowjob thing years ago? Everyone was so concerned that twelve year old girls were blowing entire varsity was featured on every prime-time drama with a captive writing room and quick turn-around time, every network news magazine? Young girls, check. Sex act, check. Extra spice? That was the problem. There was nothing to give it distance. Parents got too scared, and didn't want to watch anymore; sensible people began to ask whether the acts described were physically possible to perform - nevertheless perform without being caught.

So this week's story on the Gloucester High School teen pregnancy squad will be a Law and Order. It WILL be a Dr. Phil. Goddamn right it'll be a dateline. Look at the article.

Young girls. Who are middle class.

Sex. And, even better than sex qua sex, pregnancy can be daytime fare, because you can talk about teen pregnancy while pretending you're not talking about sex. Sex is so much... more clean, more pure, more family-friendly...when people aren't having it because it feels good.

A third element: religion. (Catholic). And if that's not distancing enough for you, then the pact. It adds spice. It hints at a subculture in the way that the pre-teen blowjob party story did.

I was going to blog about the story in the context of choice- in that, it will always be a challenge for people who are pro choice, pro reproductive rights, to step up, and say: If I stand for a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, at any age- I will stand for a woman's right to choose to become pregnant, at any age. And I was going to blog about whether there is, or should be a discussion about whether choice has to incorporate the right to choose to become pregnant, at any age, or whether pro-choice people get to backdoor out of the discussion by saying "after the age of consent, of course..."