The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Archive for January, 2011

Pachyderms Extinct in the Golden State?

Posted by demkid on January 30, 2011

A few days ago, Public Policy Polling (one of the most reputable polling companies in the country) tweeted that they were considering polling California for the upcoming 2012 US Senate race between Dianne Feinstein and a Republican challenger.  They asked followers for suggestions on who should be tested against Senator Feinstein, besides recent 13-point governor loser Meg Whitman.  I thought about it for a second, and replied, “Arnold, Tom Campbell, maybe Abel Maldonado? The Republican Party is beyond dead in California.”  Others popular responses were: Steve Poizner, Darrell Issa, Kevin McCarthy, and Steve Cooley.  Frankly, if these men collectively make up the cream of California’s GOP crop, my “beyond dead” comment surely isn’t far from reality.  There’s absolutely zero chance that a conservative Republican like Darrell Issa can beat any kind of Democrat in this state in the near (and perhaps distant) future.  California is a solidly blue state where Democrats hold a substantial registration edge.  This was played out in dramatic fashion in the most recent election, where despite a significant nationwide Republican swing, GOP candidates for Governor and Senate lost by double digits, and not one Republican won a statewide office.

So, do more moderate Republicans have a chance statewide in California?  In the past, moderates in the GOP haven’t had much luck getting through primaries against more conservative opponents.  In the 2010 election for instance, Tom Campbell lost the Senate primary to Carly Fiorina by a whopping 35 points!  Would he have had a better chance against Barbara Boxer in the general election?  It’s difficult to say whether his more moderate, business-friendly message would have resonated with California voters.  (He did lose the 2000 general to Senator Feinstein by 19 points, so his track record isn’t the best.)  My other choice (besides Arnold, who said he’s done running and who couldn’t be less popular), Abel Maldonado, also lost his race for Lieutenant Governor by double digits.  He seems like a candidate who could do well in this state.  He’s young, moderate, and has a good story, as the son of immigrant farm workers who went on to grow his family’s business and become Lieutenant Governor himself.  Unfortunately for him, as long as he has an “R” after his name, those main selling points will be counteracted.  There could be some hope ahead for moderate Republicans, as California’s new open-primary law will soon take effect.  The top two finishers in the primary, regardless of party, will move onto the general election.  Supported by voters last November, this could turn out to be one of Arnold’s most significant and longest-lasting victories for fellow moderates.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

For now, though, the party of the pachyderms is on the brink of extinction in California.  Sure, as recently as 2006, some pundits thought the GOP was gone nationwide, but this was proven wrong in four short years.  If we’re just talking about one solidly blue state, however, predictions of a long-term GOP ice age could be much more accurate.  The registration edge is more dramatic, and the lack of strong candidates and a cohesive message is astounding.  A week ago, a bipartisan group of political observers, lawmakers, and strategists gathered at a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies symposium and discussed the issue:

Many of the 200 attendees at the two-day conference appeared surprisingly unified on one issue: that, barring dramatic upheaval, the GOP’s prospects may be doomed in the voter-rich Golden State.

“Republicans, as a brand, are dead,” Duf Sundheim, the former state GOP chair, told the gathering Saturday.

“We’ve become an island, a political island unto ourselves,” Thad Kousser, a political analyst from UC San Diego, said of California’s overwhelmingly blue streak in the November election.

Republicans will remain dead in California until the party “decides it won’t be hostile to people who aren’t old and white,” said Darry Sragow, interim director of the USC/Los Angeles Times Poll and a longtime Democratic strategist.

Rick Claussen, a leading GOP strategist, said that unless the grass roots and the state party change tactics – and step back from their current emphasis on conservative social issues – “we’re not going to see a Republican statewide winner in the next decade.”

Tough words for a party struggling to stay relevant in Blue California.

California Republicans: On the Slow Side

Update: The Public Policy Polling results for the CA-Sen race are out.  The title of the report is “No hope for Whitman, Fiorina, Arnold, anyone vs. Feinstein.”  Not surprising.  Senator Feinstein leads the 6 Republicans tested by between 14-34 points.  The 14-point lead is actually against Tom Campbell (my first suggestion!) and the 34-point lead is against Arnold.  All 6 Republicans had sub-30 favorability numbers.  Yikes!

Posted in California, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thank you for suing us = awesome.

Posted by brightcoast on January 28, 2011

Courtesy: Taco Bell

Article here. According to the article, the suit was filed in federal court in California. Can you say diversity jurisdiction? Or perhaps there is a federal question since it’s the FDA’s meat requirements. Civ pro aside, I heard about this ad campaign on the radio, but didn’t catch who it was about. In dispute is the actual % of beef in Taco Bell’s meat. Relatedly, I caught an episode of the BBC show “Kill it, Cook it, Eat it,” which dealt with beef in different consumer products, such as kebabs, and the woman stated that in order to qualify as “meat,” it can’t have more than 25% fat and 25% connective tissue, such as ligaments, etc. I’m guessing, based on the article, that there’s an additional 10% wiggle room for preservatives, binders, and seasonings.

Anyway, all the more reason not to eat fast food, I suppose.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Generation “Next”

Posted by brightcoast on January 25, 2011

What I like about “our” generation, and I use that term loosely, since I’m not sure where it ends compared with the teenagers who have cell phone ring tones at such a high pitch that my “damaged” ears can’t even hear them, is the use of social media for good, or for any real purpose at all. (Aside from a waste of time or to hurt others, etc.)

Here’s an example. Pepsi is giving away various grants to different organizations for various causes and public service projects. A project very near and dear to me is the “Cause the Cure” to childhood Leukemia. You can vote for this organization here They are in the running for a $250,000 grant, which we all know is small peanuts in the medical research arena, but you have to start somewhere. On the board is a father of an 18 month old girl aggressively fighting to recover from her bout with cancer, and now the complications. You can vote both via link and by texting 105654 to 73774. Voting ends Jan 31, and I believe only the top two in the category will be funded.

Aside from my personal interest in helping this organization and family, I applaud Pepsi for giving people a sense of empowerment in causing things they care about to happen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

San Diego: America’s Finest City (But Not For Antique Shopping!)

Posted by demkid on January 21, 2011

Between July 1st and September 15th of last year, visitors to Travel and Leisure Magazine’s website rated their choice of 35 American cities in a selection of subject categories.  The recently-released results can be seen in America’s Favorite Cities 2010.  It’s really entertaining to browse all of the cities and categories, and the site even gives visitors the option of putting two cities head-to-head against each other, to see which one is superior in more individual categories.  For instance, San Diego loses to San Francisco 6 categories to 4, but beats Seattle by the same margin and trounces Los Angeles 8-2 (not very surprising!).  The rankings are also separated according to how visitors view a particular city versus how residents of that city view their home.

Looking more closely at the numbers, it’s easy to see why San Diego’s “Finest City” declaration is well-justified.  According to both visitors and residents, San Diego is the 2nd-best city to visit year round (behind Honolulu and San Juan, respectively).  The city also gets high marks for its people.  Visitors and residents put San Diegans in the top 3 for both athleticism/activity and attractiveness.  Quality of life and visitor experience rankings are also high.  Visitors give San Diego top-10 rankings for weather (#1), public parks and outdoor access (#5), cleanliness (#7), people-watching (#8), and skyline/views (#8).  It’s interesting that residents give lower scores for all five categories, but this is pretty much the case for any of the categories: residents appreciate their own city less than visitors to that city.

San Diego isn’t perfect.  It gets its lowest marks for culture (a category that includes classical music, historical sites, museums, and theaters), and its food and dining scores are mediocre.  The overall lowest-ranked subcategory in the survey falls under shopping: visitors rank the city 27th for antique stores.  So, if you’re looking for a nice 19th-century mahogany desk, you might want to search elsewhere.  Can I recommend Charleston?  One thing that visitors seemed to completely miss in the survey was their specific ranking for microbrew beer in San Diego.  They ranked it 18th(!), while residents ranked it 7th, the largest divergence of any category in the entire survey, and the only category where residents ranked something higher than visitors.  I guess enjoying craft beer isn’t on the top of the to-do list for the average San Diego visitor.

I do have to say that Charleston has moved to the top of my list of places to visit.  In addition to having the best antique stores, the city ranks first for attractive people, friendly people, and noteworthy neighborhoods, and it’s near the top of the list for barbecue.  Sounds like my kind of place!  (Minus the antique shopping, of course.)

Posted in Americana, San Diego | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Attorney Jokes

Posted by brightcoast on January 19, 2011

Following the election this past November, there has been a sort of uproar in this otherwise sleepy community regarding an attorney who was elected to the local board equivalent of city council (from what I can tell). I wrote a letter to the editor expressing my outrage at these seemingly ridiculous allegations. Unfortunately, due to a lack of space in the teeny tiny (albeit free) paper that our community delivers to residents, I was told I had to edit it down. Never have I been more thankful for free web publishing.

Nonetheless, because I liked the full version better anyway and I believe this is a recurring issue we as attorneys have to deal with, I am reposting my letter for your reading (and perhaps PR refreshing) pleasure. I have omitted the party names in case they do not wish for their names to be blasted over the interwebz. Enjoy.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to come to the defense of fellow attorney (name) in regards to what I believe are unfair and unfounded allegations discussed in your December 2010/January 2011 edition. As attorneys, we are bound to strict professional rules of conduct, which can be found in the California Business & Professions Code, among other sources. In fact, in order to become an attorney, we must pass not only the California Bar Examination, but also an additional professional responsibility exam, and we must further pass an investigation by the State Bar certifying that we are of good moral character.

Chief among these rules is the most famous duty of confidentiality. If (attorney)did in fact represent (current board member), which is not clear from the information presented, she is not at liberty to disclose this representation freely. Confidentiality is central to forming an informed and trustworthy attorney-client relationship.

Even assuming confidentiality is not an issue, it is not immediately clear to me, in terms of non-legal concerns why writing a letter inviting the DA to investigate potential illegal conduct would raise any potential conflict of interest issues or relationships. It seems to me that the reason why others are pointing fingers in regards to this letter is simply that they disagree with (attorney’s) politics, which, by the way, is not unethical, but rather at the heart of democratic process. Aside from necessarily meaning that she represented (current board member), (attorney) signing her name , Esq. could indicate that the alleged violations of the relevant code sections were worth investigating, as vouched for by an attorney. In other words, she had investigated this matter in a legal capacity, and was making the recommendation in that regard.

In terms of a potential conflict of interest, which is presumably what the “concerned” are up in arms about, I don’t see what the conflict is. If it is that (attorney) represented (current board member) in some capacity, then that is in effect saying that attorneys, as a professional class, are barred from serving on any boards where they represented any present members in any capacity, which is quite a slippery, and in my opinion unfair, slope.

If the issue is that (attorney) is aligned politically or personally with (current board member), then I challenge those “concerned” to articulate a reasonable, neutrally applicable standard by which elections may be held, whereby anyone who has any sort of affinity or personal relationship with another person presently serving on the board, may also not run for office. It is simply absurd.

It seems abundantly clear that this is simply a matter of politics and not ethics. I write to you because it is extremely disconcerting to me when a person is accused of an ethical violation when there is literally no support for such an accusation which can potentially cause such damage.

I sincerely hope that the citizens of (community) will be able to move past any bad feelings for not having their candidate elected, and learn that in politics you win some and you lose some.

Sincerely,

Fellow (Community) Attorney

Posted in California, Professional Responsibility | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Seriously, USD Law?

Posted by demkid on January 14, 2011

I just was alerted to the fact that the full passage rate statistics for the July 2010 California Bar Exam are now online.  As much as I enjoy bragging about my school, the Class of 2010 left much to be desired.  Out of 259 first-time takers of the exam from USD Law, only 169 passed.  That’s an overall pass rate of 65%, and this ranks 15th out of the 20 California ABA-approved law schools, behind world-class institutions like Cal Western and Chapman University.  It also marks a 13% drop from the Class of 2009’s performance on the exam a year earlier.

So, USD Law, what happened?  I can remember arriving at the school when the Bar passage rate was a major selling point.  Now it’s something that’s embarrassing to talk about.  Was this year just an anomaly (I’d like to give the Class of 2010 more credit), or does this speak to a larger problem with how the School of Law is preparing its students for the Bar Exam?  Perhaps USD Law has just put too much effort into the development of its Career Services Department, to the detriment of Bar prep in the classroom.  Sorry, I crack myself up sometimes…if only that was the case!

Posted in CA Bar Exam, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

How to Lower Law School Tuition:

Posted by brightcoast on January 13, 2011

Cut career services.

Now I know this is going to sound drastic, it is a major challenge to the typical law school bureacratic structure, but in my honest opinion, it would be a good savings of resources.

There’s nothing worse than receiving the confirmation letter from the State Bar of California, stating “Congratulations! You’ve passed the most difficult bar exam in the country. But you still don’t have a job that pays practicing law.” Ok, so it doesn’t state all of that…

Take USD Law in particular. There are at least 4 career service “counselors” 1 or 2 deans or assistant deans, and several front desk employees/work studies, not to mention a newly remodeled office to house all these people. This has got to be at least a $500k/year venture.

In its defense, from my experiences, career services does the following things: meets with students individually to give advice, organizes networking and speaker events, contacts local agencies or employers upon students’ expressions of interest, services as a gathering place for employers seeking to employ students, organizes and coordinates the on campus interviews, collects applications for non on-campus interviews in certain situations, orchestrates judicial clerkship applications, and has a library of information for students. (I’m sure there are other things they can legitimately claim to do, I am just not familiar with them.)

But herein lies my personal issue with USD Law career services, the amount of jobs they get for students does not justify the enormous cost of having so many people employed, and their services could easily be reappropriated to other departments. This is especially true considering: 1) USD Law tuition is incredibly high; 2) job prospects are low; and 3) bar passage rates have been steadily declining (July 2010 results here). The following, therefore, are my suggestions as to how USD can improve employment prospects of graduates while simultaneously strenghtening the USD Law student-alumni relations, and increasing bar passage rate.

1) Re bar passage rates: beef up academic support, pure and simple.

a. Course guidance: There are no course counselors available for students to discuss the various course and program options.

b. Outline banks– many clubs have them. It’s no secret that after first year you figure out that you don’t have to do it yourself, and in fact, if your professor has so thoroughly confused you that you can’t understand the difference between an intentional and unintentional tort (cough cough), looking at someone’s straightforward version of the black letter law would be a better use of your time.

c. Upperclassmen Mentors-There should be mandatory matching of upper and lower classmen, at least for the first year. It could ease much unnecessary confusion. It could also help students learn about what courses to take, etc. Alumni mentors would be even better, especially for the foregoing networking point.

d. Tutoring program- Make sure students understand at least the basic bar subjects, so they aren’t setting themselves up for failure. It’s no secret that one could earn a passing grade under the bell curve system, and yet be thoroughly unclear about the basic structure of the subejct matter. There is no legitimate reason why there aren’t teaching assistants beyond first year. There are more than enough work studies to fill the roles, and aside from thereby decreasing the debt of those students, it would increase student comprehension of the subject matter.

2. Alumni participation:

Career services itself admits to only providing about 25% of graduate jobs through On Campus Interviews (OCIs), which in most cases involve firms contacting the school. Thus, you don’t need an entire office to coordinate employers wanting to post, simply allow them access to the website, and allow candidates to select time slot preferences on the computer, as they already do. The rest is simply administrative.

Speaking of the career website listings, they are attrocious. There is something like one or two new jobs every MONTH. This is pale in comparison with several other schools USD Law grads have gotten access to (and in most cases had to pay) through symplicity. Being the “best law school in [San Diego],” USD Law must do better.

The jobs which are listed, or career services has information about are nowhere near the need of students graduating in this economy. And over the past 2 years, the prospects have not gotten better for law grads, yet nothing has changed in career services. It is a travesty.

Everyone knows that the best way to get a job is through networking. As an individual you have to pound the pavement, attend bar events, etc. meet potential employers. Aside from organizing events, which students can and already do organize anyway, career services is absolutely no help with the personal action required to do this.

Lastly, alumni are in the legal market now. They have graduated, passed the bar, and are now practicing law. Instead of simply passing out a packet compiled with alumni who are willing to talk to students, why not match them up at some point, facilitate the relationship. This will help students get a realistic view of what they are in for.

If career services is allowed to continue, they should be required to make a commitment of substance. Obviously 100% employment isn’t practical, but something better than including any sort of employment in graduate employment stats (see NY Times article), is absolutely necessary to maintain the integrity of the program and fairness to students. $15-$20 per hour (if a position is even paid at all!!) should have to be disclosed in these employment surveys, so that students seeking to enter law school know that they will be faced with $250,000 in debt and a job that only pays double minimum wage- what they might be making after receiving a simple bachelor’s degree.

Career services is supposed to help foster careers, and they should be held to the task. Law grads have had enough of the justifications and excuses. This is just one way highly inflated tuition can be addressed.

Posted in CA Bar, CA Bar Exam, California, The Law, Uncategorized, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Passing the CA Bar, as I see it:

Posted by brightcoast on January 13, 2011

Obviously everyone’s studying and test taking experiences are different, but given the amount of tremendous stress we are all put under, which is exacerbated by our individual situations or contingencies, I thought I would give my input to lawschool students and recent grads who may be looking for a place to start. Thus, here are my top 10 pieces of advice to pass the California Bar on the first attempt.

1. Take BarBri, seriously. I don’t have experience with any of the other programs out there, but I know that people I know who took BarBri and followed the pace program passed. I took BarBri mobile, which I would personally recommend if you are capable of independent study. Well, the only part that is actually independent is that you force yourself to watch the lectures at your own convenience. What I particularly liked, aside from the fact that I didn’t have to battle the 2 hour round trip commute and fighting through traffic at the local city-wide BarBri location, was that the mobile program starts earlier, and is thus less hours of studying per day. Sure, I had to start studying at the same time I was studying for my last law school final, but we all know which of the two is more important, and chances are, if you are taking a bar class that last semester, the studying can overlap.  Additionally, starting with the July 2010 Bar, in order to compete with Kaplan’s guarantee, BarBri allows you to repeat the course for free. That’s not a deal to strive for, but a guarantee of continued support, nonetheless.

2. Follow the pace program. Just do it. Yeah it’s pretty damn terrible, but every moment you spend following it, you know that you are continuing to prepare for the Bar, rather than wasting your time. Towards the end you will find more of a balance that works for you, but all the practice MBEs, essays and PTs are assigned for a reason. I cannot stress how important the practice is. In fact, I think the last PT assigned before the Bar was almost identical in facts and nature to the actual PT on day 3 of the Bar. There are only so many hypotheticals anyone can think of. Think about it.

3. Music. I, like many others I suspect, am easily distracted by technology when I am forced to do something intensely boring like, say, listen to 12 hours of property lectures. What helped me was listening to music, of which I highly recommend fast paced dance music. Read: Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, whatever other popular music that is high energy. I ran out of itunes funds quickly, so I switched to the iheartradio app, which I highly recommend. You can shuffle to find a different radio station somewhere in the country by genre.

4. Caffeine, Starbucks in particular. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be alert and focused while you study. I must have drank in excess of 40 oz of coffee everyday at one point. When you are tired you don’t retain as much, if anything. Your tolerance for coffee may become so high that you don’t even care whether it’s black or not. It is expensive, but consider it one of your bar loan expenses, and invest wisely.

5. Sleep when you can. Everyone knows it’s important. Trying to study intensely without adequate rest is not only unwise, it’s stupid. It is a waste of your time. Take a nap, then start studying when you wake up. Make sure you are eating well too. Many of my friends recommend exercising, I literally didn’t have the time, but I can definitely see the value. Just don’t over do it.

6. Don’t get in your own way. Just accept this fact, you are not going to have a fun summer, or beginning of the year, you just aren’t. If you don’t expect to have a social life, or any life at all while you are studying, then you won’t be let down at the endless hours of studying. Don’t be completely anti-social, some interactions help you feel like a human, but If you know you have a PT to do at night, or early in the morning, don’t spend the whole day doing some rigorous exercise, or the night before pulling an all night drinking binge. Again, waste of your time. I personally found that it helps to keep your box of books in the car. I had issues with remembering all of the different ones I would need for my study sessions. This way, you literally always have something to do, and you can switch around if you get bored with one thing.

7. Start in law school. Figure out your best study style, then apply it to studying for the Bar. E.g. some people love flashcards, others detest them. Know yourself. There are no magic tricks, you just have to put in the hours.

8. Relatedly, take bar courses. I remember as a 1L hearing, “I figure whatever I need to know for the Bar, they will teach me in BarBri.” While this is true, think about the consequences of avoiding Bar courses. Do you remember how convoluted Property seemed, well imagine trying to learn it after just 3 lectures and only a few days to review and practice. It sounds like a nightmare to me. I cannot imagine trying to completely learn a new area of the law in just 12 weeks, which are dedicated to some 15 different subject and 3 different modalities. Be smart. Obviously people pass without taking all the bar courses, but it is my personal belief that this adds unnecessary stress to an already insane situation.

9. Legal experience is invaluable. You need to know how to take law school exams for the essays, but you really need to know what it means to have a client and write legal documents for the PTs. If this sort of thing is already second nature to you, you have an advantage. You still have to be able to follow directions and do exactly what you are being told (be a sheep!), but knowing how to marshall the facts, and apply the law to your client’s situation are things lawyers do, not law students. If you come from a solid lawschool program, you may have regular/non-clinical classes where the profs do a good job preparing you.

10. Know when to call it quits. There are bound to be certain days where you just have a mental block or a nervous breakdown, but make sure these are the exception rather than the rule. You can take days off, but make sure you are pushing yourself the rest of the days. You will undoubtedly surpass any limits you thought you had for how long you can sit in one spot, read one subject, take practice essays, etc. It literally scars your brain and changes you into an even more cynical depressing person, but in a good lawyerly way. It’s like our own private Vietnam.

Lastly, be sure to pay attention especially to Honigsberg. He’s the best. Other profs do an excellent job of teaching you the different subjects (shoutout Schechter, Epstein, Franzese, and Corporations guy with weird intonations), but he nails the psychoemotional and motivational aspects. (Stay in a hotel, buy your lunch in advance, etc. are some of the things Honigsberg will tel you). Lastly, remember, 75% of first time takers from ABA schools pass.

Posted in California, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Employed After Graduation? Does Babysitting Count?

Posted by demkid on January 11, 2011

I highly recommend this article, published in the Times on Saturday.  It discusses the terrible position many new law graduates are in, burdened by heavy debt loads and with meager employment prospects.  It also gets into the fuzzy math law schools use when calculating the employment percentages of their recent graduates, in an attempt to hold or improve their positions in the annual US News rankings.  Some highlights:

A law grad, for instance, counts as “employed after nine months” even if he or she has a job that doesn’t require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too. Number-fudging games are endemic, professors and deans say, because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think of law schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it. They are also cash cows.

There were fewer complaints about fudging and subsidizing when legal jobs were plentiful. But student loans have always been the financial equivalent of chronic illnesses because there is no legal way to shake them. So the glut of diplomas, the dearth of jobs and those candy-coated employment statistics have now yielded a crop of furious young lawyers who say they mortgaged their future under false pretenses.

Apparently, there is no shortage of 22-year-olds who think that law school is the perfect place to wait out a lousy economy and the gasoline that fuels this system — federally backed student loans — is still widely available. But the legal market has always been obsessed with academic credentials, and today, few students except those with strong grade-point averages at top national and regional schools can expect a come-hither from a deep-pocketed firm. Nearly everyone else is in for a struggle.

Even students with open eyes, though, will have a hard time sleuthing through the U.S. News rankings. They are based entirely on unaudited surveys conducted by each law school, using questions devised by the American Bar Association and the National Association for Law Placement. Given the stakes and given that the figures are not double-checked by an impartial body, each school faces exactly the sort of potential conflict of interest lawyers are trained to howl about.

Critics of the rankings often cast the issue in moral terms, but the problem, as many professors have noted, is structural. A school that does not aggressively manage its ranking will founder, and because there are no cops on this beat, there is no downside to creative accounting. In such circumstances, the numbers are bound to look cheerier, even as the legal market flat-lines.

“This idea of exceptionalism — I don’t know if it’s a thing with millennials, or what,” she says, referring to the generation now in its 20s. “Even if you tell them the bottom has fallen out of the legal market, they’re all convinced that none of the bad stuff will happen to them. It’s a serious, life-altering decision, going to law school, and you’re dealing with a lot of naïve students who have never had jobs, never paid real bills.”

As a recent law school graduate and new attorney, I’ll just offer this advice: Know what you’re getting yourself into.  If you do, you shouldn’t have any complaints once you’re out in the real world.

Posted in Education, The Law | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Misguided Blame for the Tucson Killings

Posted by demkid on January 11, 2011

I’m just going to link to an article I like, but I briefly want to say that as a moderate, I’m particularly saddened by both the shooting of a fellow moderate Democrat, and the politicking going on already on both sides of the political aisle.  From what I’ve read and heard, Congresswoman Giffords is a terrific individual.  She’s well-liked by her colleagues, seems extremely genuine, got into public service for the right reasons (to improve the lives of those she represents), and has worked to tone down the rhetoric and partisanship in this country, even sending an email to a Republican friend as recently as last Friday, seeking to collaborate on promoting centrism and moderation.  If there’s one good thing that comes out of this tragedy on a political level, I hope that this harsh rhetoric that Gabby Giffords has fought against is significantly reduced.  This means a reduction in both Sarah Palin “Target List” type materials, as well as misguided attempts by some to use those materials to score political points when no proof exists that links their existence with unfortunate catastrophes.

In the specific case of the killings in Tucson, it’s completely ridiculous to be arguing about whether Jared Lee Loughner was influenced in any way by Sarah Palin.  This is the type of crap that Congresswoman Giffords would discourage.  Instead, we need to look at how this mass killing actually happened, and how similar incidents can be reduced going forward.  This brings me to the article, written by John Cook, titled The Sad Death of Gun Control:

There is of course one thing we can squarely and firmly place the blame for these killings on, aside from Loughner himself: The handgun he used to carry them out. Arizona essentially has no gun laws. Loughner committed no crime when he purchased the gun, no crime when he loaded it, and no crime when he carried it to the Safeway. He was obviously crazy to virtually everybody who encountered him in recent months except for the dealer who sold him the gun. He was too crazy for community college, but not too crazy to buy a Glock.

The reason six people were killed on Saturday is that Loughner had access to a firearm. But a consensus has emerged that preserving access to firearms for the public at large is worth the occasional mass killing because the alternative—registering firearms, requiring competency evaluations before selling them—is too onerous. So instead we fight about whether a subsidiary reason may have involved nasty things some people said, because there is no consensus that restricting our freedom to say nasty things to and about one another is too much of a burden.

Cook argues that “a requirement in Arizona that all gun sales be accompanied by a note from a mental health professional certifying competence” would have been much more likely to prevent this incident than “a pledge from Sarah Palin to refrain from violent rhetoric.”  I completely agree.  How about a requirement that magazines hold no more than 10 bullets.  Why would anyone need 31?  It’s too bad gun control has become such a non-issue in this country, and without a strong, educated, reasonable voice from moderates like Representative Giffords, meaningful solutions to this country’s problems will continue to be overshadowed by the meaningless rhetoric on both sides.

Posted in Americana, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

I Miss Rick Sanchez (And Not Because He’s Hispanic!)

Posted by demkid on January 3, 2011

There’s something missing from CNN in the new year.  Actually, there are many things missing from CNN these days, including decent ratings, but I’m specifically referring to Rick Sanchez, who was fired 3 months ago for making controversial comments on the Stand Up With Pete Dominick radio show.  You can listen to the full interview here, but I’m sure most of you know that Rick called Jon Stewart a bigot, scoffed at the idea that Jews could be considered a minority group, and indirectly stated that Jews control both CNN and the cable news media.  Should Rick have been fired for these comments?  Jon Stewart doesn’t think so, and neither do I.  People have been kept on the air recently after making much more disturbing comments (Tucker Carlson calling for Michael Vick’s execution is just one example.)

Rick seems like a genuinely nice guy who had one of the more unique and entertaining shows on cable news.  He was the first to really incorporate social media into his program in an attempt to better connect with his viewers.  His show was quirky, fun, and fairly informal, just like its host, and this is what opened both up to numerous jokes by people from Jon Stewart to personalities at his own network (see here).  In my opinion, the reason why Rick got into trouble in the first place, is that he wasn’t very introspective.  Instead of recognizing the fact that people made fun of him, or used his material on slow news days, because he was Rick Sanchez, the “what does 9 meters mean in English/please taze me” guy, he incorrectly concluded that he was being slighted because he was Rick Sanchez, the Hispanic.  I have no doubt that he felt genuinely discriminated against in the past because of his ethnicity, and that he saw tons of discrimination growing up as a poor kid in Florida, but he simply failed to recognize that the jokes about him in his professional career were coming because of what he DID, not because of who he IS.  He unfortunately didn’t realize that because of his personality and unscripted nature of his show, he was bound to create clips that could be used later by others for comedic purposes.  Here is a full collection of clips from The Daily Show that poke fun at Rick.  None of these bring his ethnicity into play.  I guess my main point is that Rick needs to have a thicker skin when it comes to others’ comments about him.  He needs to learn to laugh at himself.  He needs to understand that the old bigotry of his childhood has been eclipsed by legitimate professional criticism of his performance as a man who’s done extremely well for himself in his career.  He should be commended for his success and I hope that he’s taken some of his time off to reflect on the misguided reasoning of his recent comments.  Just as Jon Stewart poked fun at Rick because he’s Rick, without regard to ethnicity, I miss him being on CNN for the same reason.  He’s one of a kind.

On a related note, a new website has sprung up: Friends of Rick Sanchez.  Unfortunately, I think it does Rick more harm than good.  In my opinion, it inflates the overall damage done to Rick, exaggerates the reaction by the media, deflects legitimate criticism of his comments, and paints Rick as a victim, not as someone who made a mistake and is working to turn things around in the new year.  A page on the site explains why it was created:

Rick is a good man with a long history of success in the television industry.  We created this site because we don’t believe a man’s life should be judged by one misconstrued moment, one interview, one soundbite taken out of context.  We believe that runaway headlines shouldn’t malign someone’s reputation, leaving him unemployed and ruined.

The claims that his comments were “misconstrued” and that a soundbite was taken out of context are generally false, and just don’t serve any purpose in helping Rick recover from the incident.  Arguing over what he may or may not have said or meant, especially when his comments are clear to any objective listener, is a foolish idea, as this focuses people on those past comments and not what Rick is doing to become a better person in the present and future.  Just for the record, because Friends of Rick doesn’t think he said anything about Jewish control of media, listen to 11:10 – 11:22 of the full Mediaite clip.  He states:

I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah.

Notice how he says “the people in this country who are Jewish,” not “the people in this country who are white, elitist liberals.”  I also think it’s way too early to claim that Rick Sanchez is “ruined.”  I hope that he would agree with me on this one!  Furthermore, Friends of Rick, instead of following the lead of Rick himself by being apologetic, saying he had a chip on his shoulder, saying he was “too impetuous” to control himself, and taking full responsibility for his actions, has decided to deflect criticism back onto the interviewer!

It was wrong for Rick to allow the interviewer to steer this into a discussion about Jewish-Americans, allowing him to make the false argument that minorities, simply by virtue of being minorities, can’t be prejudiced.

Friends of Rick also asks readers to ponder how “Jon Stewart’s religion was injected into the interview . . . .”  First, Pete Dominick by no means “steered” or “injected” Judaism into the interview.  He simply mentioned this to answer Rick’s assertion that Stewart made fun of him simply because of his own minority status.  Rick was the one who then decided to scoff at the idea of Jews being a minority group and continued by alluding to Jewish control of CNN and other networks.  Again, no purpose is served by attempting to blame others for your own actions.  I think Rick would also agree with this, and should be commended by taking full responsibility in several interviews.

Finally, I strongly disagree with Friends of Rick painting Rick as a victim in this whole incident and aftermath.  Under their “Where’s Rick?” page, they state:

It’s fair to say that Rick was blindsided by all of this.  One day, you’ve got a job you love.  The next, you get a phone call finding out you’re unemployed.  In an instant, Rick’s life changed. Unfortunately, it’s a story that gets played out everyday in this country.  Many others know exactly how Rick feels, and he now knows exactly how they feel too.

I would first direct the Friends of Rick creators to an interview Rick gave to Mediaite shortly after his firing.  This is the Rick that should be featured on the page.  In the interview, he restates his legitimate criticisms of the media (part ideological, part milquetoast), questions the lack of minorities in primetime, and takes full responsibility for his words (“I made a mistake, I said some things I shouldn’t have, I insulted people. And they deserve a direct apology from me.”)  He also tells how he was anything but “blindsided by all of this.”  He knew there’d be a reaction to the interview:

Yeah, I did. I even knew it as I was into it. But I was too impetuous to control myself. I should have been a little more careful. But yeah I kind of knew. I even told my wife when I got home, I said, ‘I just did an interview and I kind of went off on some things I shouldn’t have said.’ So yeah, I knew.

To say that what happened to Rick is an everyday story in this country and that Rick knows exactly how people feel and vice versa, is an unfortunate statement and one that clearly wasn’t well thought-out.  Rick had a terrific show on CNN.  CNN trusted him enough to even add it as a primetime fill-in, before the debut of Parker/Spitzer.  Rick’s rise over the years was a great story, especially knowing where he came from.  However, as Rick explained, he made a mistake.  He insulted people.  He did something wrong, and doesn’t blame his employer for taking the action they did.  To compare this to the story of a regular worker in the United States who gets laid off in bad economic times is frankly insulting to those people.  “Many others” don’t know what it’s like to be a successful personality on a top cable network.  “Many others” don’t know what it’s like to publicly make controversial comments that results in being let go from that network.  This isn’t a story that gets played out everyday.  It’s unique to Rick Sanchez, and it should be stated as such.

A much better approach would be to state that we all make mistakes in our lives, some more serious than others, and its how we come back from those mistakes that really shows our true character.  Americans like comeback stories.  Here’s hoping that Friends of Rick Sanchez focuses more on Rick as a person, keeps us updated on his progress, and follows their namesake by acknowledging past mistakes while not making excuses for them.  Most importantly, here’s hoping that Rick is among the list of successful comeback stories in 2011.  We hope he’s on the air again, soon!

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