Sunday, December 18, 2011

The story of a lazy man

I came home to find my sister lying on her face in living room. When I walked up the steps, I could only see the top of her head, hair splayed out in front. Blood had soaked into the carpet by then and I wondered if she had drowned in it or died from the gunshot instead.

The paramedics had been swift and arrived two hours after being called. Their lights were bouncing off the apartments next door like a lopsided disco ball decked out for the 4th of July. My brother called the police when the shooting started, but they hung up when he gave our address. I told him it had been worth a shot. Last week, the cops had showed up when Danny's mom was stabbed over by CVS.

After they took her body away, a man in a pinstripe suit squatted next to me. I looked up from the blood crusted carpet and found his face. He reached his hand out to my shoulder, smiled, and said, "You're not doing well in school and I think it's because you have no work ethic. I want you to come to school early tomorrow and scrub the toilets in the locker rooms before class."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

Reposted from here.

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *
To the people of the world,
We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard!
*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hyperbole is not possible

My favorite sign from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

-George Orwell, 1984

When I was visiting Berkeley, I mispronounced hyperbole. You know: hyper-bowl instead of hyper-bowl-lee. It was embarrassing mostly because the person I was talking to insisted on correcting me. It's one of those words that I mispronounced in my head the first time I read it, and now I can't cure myself.

Theoretically, there is a point where hyperbole is no longer possible. There is a point where no matter how scathing (or praising, but that doesn't apply here) your language, it's still understatement. 

In 2004, Dick Cheney said, "Deficits don't matter." In 2009 and 2010, Republicans manufactured a social movement fueled by outrage over the deficit (though it should be noted that this outrage took a short break in late 2010, while the GOP negotiated the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy).  

Now, during a fabricated crisis over the debt ceiling, Congressional Republicans have taken our country to a new level of recklessness and intellectual dishonesty so astounding I've given up attempting to describe it. has had some great coverage of the crisis, but I want to paraphrase a reader's comment as he dissects Charles' Krauthammer's recent article. Essentially, Fivethirtyeight reader, "Nick," pointed out that the GOP blaming the Democrats for the economic situation we're in is like a "murderer framing a paramedic." He continues:
[Now,] Republicans seem to have gone even further - they're trying to destroy the corpse to rule out any post mortem. Krauthammer seems to be saying that their "golden opportunity" lies in sitting back and watching a downgrade wreak havoc on the economy. 
Maybe they're bitter Obama had a well timed financial collapse during the last election. If they get him thrown out of office on the same tide of public sentiment that scuttled McCain then it will be a sick reflection of politics in America - you can ruin the economy over eight years and then intentionally sink it again to regain power. Never has there been a truer picture of a nation so intent on directing its own decline. 
(And Mitch McConnell has said as much)

During the last few days, I've talked with several respectable people about the debt ceiling debates. They don't seem worried: "It's just Congress going through its typical process of getting anything done."

There is no doubt that what we're seeing is political theater at its worst, but I don't share in the overall nonchalance. At this point, the GOP has pushed the debate to a situation where any outcome will be negative.

There are three possible outcomes: 1) default, 2) pass a compromise, or 3) Obama uses the 14th Amendment to declare the debt ceiling itself unconstitutional and simply ignore it. Options 1 and 2 aren't great politically or economically and option 3 would cause significant political backlash.

While the problems with defaulting as a country are self-evident, a compromise is not significantly better. Any compromise with Republicans will involve making cuts to government programs such as higher education as well as programs that support the working class, the poor, and other vulnerable populations. These will have a decidedly negative effect on the economy; education is the chief driver of economic mobility and the working class is the chief driver of consumer spending (which is the chief driver of our economy).

This morning, it looks like option 2 is most likely. In this case, the compromise would actually be farther to the right than the initial GOP proposal. Part of this situation is the media's fault. "Liberal" MSNBC discussed the differences between Boehner's plan and Reid's plan, but failed to mentioned that both filled the prescription the GOP spelled out in the beginning of this debate: all cuts and no taxes. The Democrats have capitulated to the GOP on every front, but aren't getting any credit (or blame) for it in the main-stream media.

Perhaps the most astounding aspect of the debt debate is that the position of Congressional Republicans (and now the current compromise bill) is actually farther to the right than what the average Republican voter wants. Nate Silver discusses that here.

From a policy standpoint, the 14th Amendment option as discussed by many and advocated by the more progressive wing of the Democratic party would probably be the best option. It doesn't cut spending, but it would afford us the opportunity to avoid harmful cuts in favor of raising some taxes and making cuts that won't damage the economy (cutting defense spending). It's also worth noting that since ratings agencies have threatened to downgrade the U.S. if we don't address the debt, swift cuts/tax increases must accompany this option.

At some point in my study of politics and current affairs, I would have rendered more hyperbolic judgement of the Grand Old Party. But at this point, I'm stuck with understatement.

-GOP, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm going to Berkeley

My new favorite t-shirt
I'm trying to avoid being like Labron James as I announce where I'll be attending law school. So, I won't be appearing on ESPN to talk about how much I hate Cleveland. That's a start... plus I'm pretty ambivalent about Cleveland.

I'm going to Berkeley. It's not the most practical decision, but I believe Berkeley is the place I will be most inspired. It's the place where I'll be best able to learn the law, be involved in the community, engage in making the world a better place, and spend time with our Creator's creation.

Many of my other options were agonizing to turn down. But after much prayer and deliberation, I am at peace with the decision. And I'm very excited.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

University of Washington School of Law

Note: click on any picture to enlarge.
Location: Seattle, WA
U.S. News and World Report Rank: 30
What they like to talk about: not really sure actually–PNW excellence?
Pros: one of the most renowned universities in the world (not up to Cal standards, but still impressive), my home state, in the market where I want to work, significantly cheaper, Seattle easygoingness, local lay prestige 
Cons:  lowest ranked law school still alive in my decision making, largely limited to region, low national prestige, non-T10 syndrome (though they are a little insulated from this by being the best in the Pacific Northwest)

The first words in my notes: What a law building! It's like the pleasant antithesis to Michigan's architecture–modern, airy, light, it seems like most of the common area is glass or vibrant white. Are they trying to channel light into dark and rainy Seattle?

Indeed they are and they succeeded marvelously. Even so, the classrooms are surprisingly dark considering how brilliant the common areas are. And similar to Minnesota, UW employs concentric squares of tables in their classrooms–though they execute it much better than Minnesota.
Classroom (though not the one I went to class in)

The class I visited was quite a delight (I was even called on–though it was only because I know who Ted Olson is and nobody else in the class seemed to). There was a good vibe (lots of jovial conversations) before class and the teacher knew almost everyone by their first names (despite it being only the third week of class). The teacher also made sure the class gave a resounding "good morning," which I thought was a good indication of the friendly and laid-back atmosphere.

The law school as a whole feels (not surprisingly) very "Seattle." It's pretty urban hip, but has a little of Michigan's "undergrad" feel, tempered by some commuter vibe. It's the city after all and Seattle is one of the hippest cities in America.

The non-T10 syndrome was alive and well and I want to add another symptom to the list: being indecorously ostentatious with their verbiage. They use big words when they don't need to. Words like "formalist" and "textualist" abounded during class and while it was clear what they were saying, they could have used simpler language. I once read that when a lawyer starts using big words, you know he doesn't know what he's talking about. This holds true for people in general.

Seattle architecture is an interesting beast. They're really concerned with delivering light to every part of the building despite the fact that the clouds are trying to do the opposite. The UW law building does some amazing things with the little light that spills through the clouds and the law library feels delightfully airy. I could think well there.

 For a variety of reasons UW was, by far, the most difficult school to withdraw from. Both practically and emotionally it was a great choice.

But, I withdrew yesterday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

University of California Davis School of Law

Note: click on any picture to enlarge.
Location: Davis, CA
U.S. News and World Report Rank: 23
What they like to talk about: N/A
Pros: I love Davis
Cons: fairly good law school in market over-saturated by better schools 

I didn't spend much time at Davis Law... and this post will reflect that. Having said that, Davis is near and dear to my heart.

I was born in Woodland, CA, which is about 20 minutes directly north of Davis. For the first 5 years of my life, I lived in Davis and loved every second of it. Davis is the bicycle capitol of the world (along with several other places) and the community is tight-knit to boot. Obviously, the University of California Davis is world famous, but it also has some really cool progressive things going on... like The Domes.

On my way to Berkeley, I stopped in Davis to eat PinkBerry and visit Davis Law. 
I should point out that King Hall (the Davis Law building) is a bit underwhelming. Half the building had been renovated and the other half is like walking through the eighties (which I actually enjoyed, but that's beside the point). 
Renovated classroom

80s classroom



Regardless, the natural surroundings almost make up for it. There is a creek that runs past the law school and forms a small lake. A fantastic bike path runs along the creek and I could imagine many a sunny afternoon spent peddling along and feeding ducks (because in my imagination, I miraculously have no homework).

Unfortunately for Davis, just down the road resides Berkeley Law and Stanford Law. These two California powerhouses insure that Davis's employment prospects are limited to Sacramento and northern California (undoubtably the best part of the state, but still, one likes to have options). Disclaimer: the part about Davis grads only getting jobs in Sacramento and extreme northern California is not meant to be a factual statement. It is a metaphor that I'm using to say: "I could go to Davis and love it, but I would have an easier time getting a job to pay off my massive law school debt if I went somewhere else." 

I withdrew last week.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

University of California Berkeley Law School

Note: click on any picture to enlarge.
Location: Berkeley, CA
U.S. News and World Report Rank: 9
What they like to talk about: making the world a better place
Pros: one of the most renowned universities in the world, has the most top-10 academic departments of any U.S. university, public institution mission, confident, lots of lay prestige, bay area weather, driven students
Cons:  California budget crisis, cost, urban setting, driven students

When I first started studying for the LSAT, my goal was to earn a score that would get me into Berkeley. The radical heritage of the university attracted me because I wanted to attend a law school where my fellow students cared about making the world a better place. After my visit, I can say that Berkeley certainly fits that bill. 
Berkeley Law library

One of the most important things to note is that out of all the admitted students I talked to, only one was coming straight from undergrad. He felt like he was the odd man out... and he was. Overwhelmingly, the students at Berkeley law have been working for several years, are excited and invested in their work, and are attending law school to make them better at it. This makes for an extremely motivated student body who are serious about becoming effective lawyers. To top it off, virtually all of those I talked to were involved in work that makes the world a better place. A group of people more motivated to do good you could not find anywhere.

One practical effect of this is that Berkeley students are really active in clinical programs. At other law schools, clinics are reserved for 2Ls and 3Ls. But when the clinical craze hit, Berkeley 1Ls would have none of it. They organized student-run clinics, which have now become central to what Berkeley does in its local community. No doubt this insistence on hands-on experience stems from the fact that Berkeley 1Ls are used to "real-world experience," but I like the attitude that they aren't willing to sit back and let the 2Ls and 3Ls have all the fun.
Berkeley bell town
Because of their driven nature, Berkeley Law students seem a little insular. They're focused on their goals rather than on the law community itself. This is both positive and negative. At Michigan, I really enjoyed the feeling of community that was organized around the institution itself (it felt a little like undergrad). Michigan students enjoy cultivating their learning experience with other members of their learning community even if those others don't have the same interests and goals. At Berkeley, there is a sense of community, but the communities are organized around specific efforts, they are external to the law school itself.

In my notebook, I wrote: "Boalt is simultaneously jovial but preoccupied with professionalism. They are a happy and friendly community, but Michigan is a closer community." If studying at Michigan is like attending a close-knit college, studying at Berkeley is like working at a self-actualized public interest law firm.

While at Michigan I was prepared for any hint of pretentiousness, I realized that Berkeley is really the place that suffers from it (though when compared with some other law schools, none of my prospects suffer from it). Berkeley is home to the "liberal intelligentsia" and it feels like it. Pretentious might be a strong word for it, but Berkeley is confident in it's intellectual bona fides. And honestly, it should be.
Berkeley Law

Berkeley campus
But Berkeley is confident for different reasons as well. I didn't realize until I was doing research on law schools that UC Berkeley is one of the best universities in the world (anywhere from 8th to 2nd in the world depending on the source-here, here, or here). Moreover, I learned that out of all U.S. universities, Berkeley has the most departments ranked in the top-10 in their fields.

The way Berkeley's confidence came across during my visit was refreshing. They didn't try to "sell" us on Berkeley Law. They simply told us about their excellence. The Dean, Christopher Edley, Jr., spoke to us on the first day despite having broken his ribs several days before. His talk was the most moving part of my entire trip west.

He spoke about the unique mission of a public law school. That as a society we had come together to form a place of learning that would create great leaders. That Berkeley Law was committed to the public interest and the public good.

I was unprepared for the extraordinary beauty of Berkeley's campus. I was under the impression that Michigan was going to be the campus that took everyone's breath away (and it did), but Berkeley did too in a different way. At Michigan the revivalist Gothic architecture stood as a testament to the creative genius of whomever had built it. But at Berkeley, nature served as the architect and there is no better designer than God. 

It's not that the buildings were underwhelming, they were spectacular, but the redwood grove and the eucalyptus trees that dotted campus helped me remember that the best human efforts are easily outdone by our Creator.

I'm struggling with the weight of my decision as I write this. I asked Berkeley to match one of my other scholarships (they have a program for this), but I got word today that they won't be doing that. Now I must decide if Berkeley is worth taking on substantially more debt than other top schools (e.g. Michigan).