1 onion. A handful of Peas. Marsala. Rice. Seitan.
3 poems in a crackerjack journal.
1 Happy cat.
While others rise through their gravity, I sink through my levity.
The man has a quiet and careful way of speaking, with a sense of resigned optimism on the rim of his words. - Neo Tokyo Times
El Gato Perfecto is kind of a stand-offish cat, for all that she’s social if she knows and trusts you. Which makes her very much like me. However, she does have a very real super power – the ability to crawl into your lap and lie there with the strength of a hundred cats. You have to have tremendous willpower to get her off you. This is not to say that she’s clingy (far from it) but that when she decides to stay in a place, her staying has a certain weight to it, her mein, a certain gravitas.
Last night I went to a game at Camden Yards. The Yanks, a game up in the standings going into today’s game, had lost. (The 9 year olds behind me were trying to convince their dad that the out of town scoreboard for that game read 7-4 against the Yanks, not 1-4). It was, in many ways, the typical Sox game of 2005. Clement started, and had a no hitter through 5, despite walking six, then clustered a bunch of hits without giving up any runs.
Even though the Sox were up by 2 at this point, you had to feel nervous. One walk and one homer makes it a tie game. The Sox put in Hansen, a young, just-signed call up, who perhaps has the best arm in that sketchy bullpen staff. He promptly gave up a single then a homer to Melvin Mora to tie the game.
Headed tied into the top of the 9th, I was feeling even more nervous. This was a golden opportunity to crawl out of a one-game-behind hole and tie the yanks for first - how like the Sox to squander it, perhaps with Francona going to a washed up veteran "because he said he felt good and wanted the ball," believing there would always be another chance later on.
At this point, there were only 8 games left in the season for both teams, and the final 3 games of those 8 are a Yanks-Boston series. In all likelihood, the season is going to come down to that final series – and, obviously, I’d like to see the Sox going into it tied, at worst. In the 5 lead up games to that series, the team that goes 4-1 (as opposed to an opponent’s 5-0) or 3-2 (as opposed to an opponent’s 4-1), will be a full game behind. That team would then have to take 2 of 3 to tie the leader. If there’s a two game difference, the trailing team would have to take 3 of 3.
Frankly, the Yankee’s starting pitching is intimidating, and they have Gordon and Rivera at the back of the pen for them. Since the Sox lost Schilling (effectively) and Miller, and Foulke and Mantei, (their #1 and #3 starters, and their #1 and #3 relievers) everyone has been “stepped up” a notch, and the bottom of the pen is basically dreck. Papelbon and Hansen might yet bridge the gap in the bullpen (along with Timlin, Bradford, Myers), and Arroyo, Clement, Wakefield, and Wells can give you something quite good if they happen to be on that day. (I suspect the big X factor will be Wakefield – I’d put him in the pen.)
Anyway, all this means that every game counts for each team, lending a knife edge significance to all matters of strategy and individual performance.
The Sox went ahead on a clutch single by Renteria (whom I’d been badmouthing all night as a guy who has a complete “Eh” reaction from the Nation.) Could have been the single of the season. Then Timlin had his usual sketchy 9th for the save.
The oddest thing was that I felt I was in Fenway South – the Sox fans outnumbered or at least balanced the Orioles fans, and we were certainly more vocal. Nearly all the crowd chants were Sox, whenever the organist played the “charge” rally, the crowd would preemptively yell out “Sox.”
On one side of me I had two beery Yankee fans debating empty stats (stats that seam to measure some kind of ability that’s more accurately measured by another stat or a combination of stats) and was treated to lines like “Varitek might be a good catching catcher, but he’s only got 68 rbi, so how good can he be?” (By any sophisticated metric, Varitek has outhit every other American League catcher by a significant margin – he just hasn’t been lucky enough to have guys in scoring position when he’s come to the plate.) To the other side, some girls there to see and socialize and be seen and be seen socializing. At least they weren’t distracting, like the guy who went to fetch a beer or use the john at least every other half-inning.
The best part of the game were the hyperactive 9 years olds behind me, who were visibly bouncing at every tight play, every disputed strike. There’s a kind of attractive purity that comes from an uncomplex rooting – a simple plugging for. Given the mixed results of just about everything in the world, results which cause me to often question the path I’m on, it’s nice to see someone simply cheering on something that won’t mean death and dismay for others. In some ways the situation validates the emotion we express, which is why I have great fondness for anyone’s enthusiasms for the geeky, the odd, the pointless and the obscure. And why I have qualms for wishing anyone well on that Exxon interview. Or endorsing any socially conservative candidate for chief justice, no matter how much of a nice guy he might be personally.
This might be the kind of thing that only poets find funny. But man, it's funny. There's always much hay to be made via the public personas of poets, but seldom is it done with just the right amount of outrageousness tethered to the basic foibles of the poet under scrutiny. Kooser is the only one I don't know much about, and I think the author of the skit didn't know all that much about him either - hence the basic selling-one's-soul-to-the-devil joke. But even that's done really well.
I try not to rant on the blog – it makes me look small minded and catty, which, I must in all fairness point out, I often am. I often bite my tongue, shake my head, let it go. There comes a point at which I just give up on an institution or a person, that's the point where I cease to critique, the point where it just does not matter what happens to an obviously lost cause.
I *do* like GULC. I really do. I'm impressed by my professors and my peers and it's been a wonderful learning experience. However, one of the things that really gets my goat is when potentially useful information is withheld in a high-handed and paternalistic manner, when choices are made *for* you on some level.
To take a step back for non-GULC readers, to participate in the Early Interview Week for summer employment, we submit, via a computer system, ranked bids on a number of employers, with the idea that we’d likely get interviews with our more highly preferred employers. To aid us in deciding who to bid on, we’re given a packet with *very* basic information about each employer (over 200?) and what they’re looking for, expressed as “A,” “B+,” “B” or something more abstract, like “excellent academic record.” Now, some employers will doubtless list their preferences a bit high or a bit low, considering. So a smart bet is to scatter your bids a bit. Take a few that are perhaps longshot, take a few that seem easy to nail.
Everyone with me?
Here's the thing that cheeses me off. Apparently career services has information on at least some of the firms – most crucially, the *actual* GPAs the firms have taken over the past however-many years. This is unsurprising. Of course the school is able to produce these numbers. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before (I can be stupid at times.)
The upshot of this is that many of us were wasting out time (and bids) on interviews *we had absolutely no chance at.* Personally I’d rather know if when an employer lists “excellent record” or B+, they’re really saying, “we don’t take anyone below a 3.40”.
For that matter, I’m not sure why the school simply does not pre-screen interviews by allowing employers to choose who they want to interview based on the resumes they receive. The school probably has some bullshit rationale (I’ve heard this) that they don’t want “only the top” students to get the best jobs. Which is a blatant crock of shit. Georgetown ranks their students on a curve. The firms carve off the top chunk of that curve at given cut off points. Only the top students get the best jobs. Perhaps they’ll say, “we’re proud of all our students and think any one of them could perform excellently at the highest levels.” In which case they should grow some balls and stop grading on a fucking curve.
Now it’s not that I expect career services to do anything other than provide a red carpet and some breath mints for the big firms (who want to interview Georgetown students anyway). I don’t expect career services to get decent numbers of small firms onto campus, even though those firms constitute the vast majority of the legal employers. I don’t expect them to get companies (except for Exxon) onto campus for in house counsel. I don’t expect them to get government agencies and public interest employers on campus in any kind of numbers at all. Basically, I have very low expectations.
However, I must say: Jesus Fucking Christ – if you’re going to make us go through this stupid non-pre-screened dance, tell us the numbers and let us decide if it’s worth interviewing at a firm whose lowest GPA taken clocks in at .3 above our own. It’s completely insulting and paternalistic to take this decision out of our hands and make us jump for hoops we couldn’t possibly hit at the cost of forgoing other, more likely chances.
If this results in a lower number of interviews, that’s just dandy with me: I’d much rather spend the time studying, or reading, or taking care of personal errands, or rubbing my cat’s belly as she naps next to me.
Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought about this issue and reached similar conclusions, which is the thing that most pisses me off. Either the school knows and does not give a shit or it’s being staffed by idiots who have never considered these ramifications.
Nights like this, when I feel pointlessly dicked around by the school, I wish I’d taken another offer. BU just increased their LRAP program and is committed to growing it, granted, it’s still small, but it’s an impressive start. BU also makes some effort toward helping you go it alone. Had their LRAP been more robust, I’d have taken them more seriously.
Whims would like poets to post up their favorite poems – meaning the favorite poems they’ve written. Which is kind of an odd exercise, given the cliché that you most love that which you most recently wrote, but only until you become dissatisfied with it and begin writing the next poem. It is, in a way, necessary (given the end). Or inevitable (given human creative activity itself).
Choosing a favorite poem is quite difficult. There are watershed poems where you take a step forward in some way – they may be indiscernible from the rest of your work, but you know that this was the poem where you finally did X or stopped doing Y. There are poems you just get lucky with – in the sense that you nail the subject/theme/emotion and then everyone seems to praise you for it. There are poems which are clear failures, but you love them for what they taught you about yourself and about the craft. Some poems you love for what they say. Some poems you love for how they say the thing they do. And then there are the poems in modes and forms – where what they say and how they say becomes further meshed with a kind of inherited voice, a tradition.
I suppose the question of, “What is your favorite poem?” can be answered if I rephrase it thus: If, this evening, you had to choose one poem to read to a collection of friends and strangers, what would it be?
I think this then is a good candidate for a “favorite poem”. It’s comfortably close to the center of my writing (stylistically). It “says” something I value. It works on the page, but works much better in the ear.
Past the walls of flesh,
the choreography of sex,
past weightlessness, the breath
of the bronchial angel, ‘round
the stringy heart unbound,
which from gust to guest
begs its news along,
one throbbing thing
unrestable, its tongue in
the vale of the mute, its
singular voice muttering
its darkly iambic forgive,
forgive, as for
Give. Listen. With tips
of fingers at your throat,
feel for the second pulse,
the Give, which you’ve
gotten wrong before.
You hear it shift
from word to word,
mistranslated as Live,
some other singular
command, and there –
it shifts, like music
fading from an afternoon,
the house empty, dead,
the piano long sold, but is
such less than
the concrete records
of words and watercolors,
that which can be stored
in attic trunks, passed down,
diminished, from the is,
the now, the moment
which is this one beat
and this one beat,
and this one. And this.
I’m experiencing the illusion of a 5 week vacation – or so at least, my weekend has seemed thusfar. It helps that I’ve been able to sleep in for the first time in awhile, and that I don’t have to worry overmuch about interviews; prepping, setting them up, so forth, so on. I’m caught up on my classwork (readings) and have pushed some of my other projects forward. The house is finally at rest (in a functional way) and I’ve caught up on my reading, writing, riding, bicycle maintenance, housecleaning, sorting, and shopping. My back (thrown out 2 weeks ago) is almost recovered. Oddly – sleeping was the most painful.
Granted, much of my weekend was tied up in project work, but I’ve had the time to sit and drink coffee and work on correspondence and so forth. One of my new favorite places to work is the kitchen window alcove, which formerly held two very large jade plants (relocated to dining room). Now that 3 window bay holds cushions, a blanket, and has a small curtain of leaves from a hanging plant. Occasionally it holds me.
I haven’t read a lot of poetry lately, and I find this relaxing. Instead I’ve been reading (in non-law time) a few collections of essays. Unfortunately, this tempts me into poems about poetry, most of which I destroy.
I’ve also been wondering about lawyers in general – now that the “law” personalities of my classmates and other 2Ls are congealing. It’s amazing to see the power of external validation, via grades, at work. These are people who are essentially the same as they were, legal-knowledge wise, 4 months ago. Meaning that as far as, say, basic contract goes, they cannot explain things better or worse than they could before grades came out. But that’s the missing magic element – the feedback. The GPA which says, “The institution approves of you. Or not.” For some it’s been remarkably relaxing – they seem far more normal than they did before. Their secret fantasy of actually continuing to be at the top of the class has been validated and they need not face the nightmare of being without that validation. For others, you see them checking out already – not so much anxiety as a mild despair laced with anxiety.
Last year a professor gave a pretty speech about everything leveling out in the end, and how they’d stick to the curve because of some kind of institutional capital concept I never quite followed. The school brings in 600 students and every year manages to draw an arbitrary line saying “we find these 200 students worthy of employment in the largest firms in the country and will facilitate their transition into them. Meanwhile we find these 200 students to be adequate on some level, and the final 200 students to be pretty much losers who can fend for themselves.” If you’re in that bottom third, I think you get to claw your way up, bootstrapping or something like that. (Never mind that there will always be a bottom third.) So I think that argument boils down to: “We can’t have good students without bad students, so we have to churn out a significant number of bad students to help our good students segue into the more prestigious employment positions.” Trickle down?
I wonder how much of a given class the school can just toss aside while retaining alumni contacts enough to swell the coffers? Probably up to 60%. So why accept the bottom third of any given class (assuming that prior GPA/LSAT really does correspond with LS grades?) Does the school owe that segment a duty to disclose their private employment opportunities in light of the crippling debt the school asks the average student to undertake? Is the median really $125,000? What’s the average? Do 99% of the students find employment after 6 months? What are the real numbers here?
Perhaps there’s a psychological need for an Omega, as well as a need to consistently supply employers with good beef, beef that looks as though it’s been sorted – the school surely couldn’t say that for year X in a small seminar of 30 students it just so happened that there were 20 (or 30) who really understood the material, inside and out, who had absorbed enough to justify their presence in the class, whereas year Y contained only 10 such students. That would be disastrous.
Ah well. Speculation, speculation. I'm curious enough to see if I can worm the employment numbers out of the school; most likely they'll be very gracious in their endless delaying.
Today, Roberts made two interesting metaphorical statements to the Judiciary Committee.
“Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules, they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical to make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire. . . . “
“I’ll remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes, not to pitch or bat.”
Yesterday, while studying in a coffee shop, I overheard some people discussing Roberts’ nomination. They got a few facts wrong, but I was most taken by their conception of “what the law is” as evidenced by that conversation. Much of that conception seems to align with Roberts’ metaphors. It is also, I think, a common conception, a common-sensical conception, one that agrees to an extent with how we like to think of ourselves and our society.
This conception is that “the law” is an established set of neutral “rules for the game” or fair background over which there was some wrangling. Supreme Court Justices might differ in their interpretation of the law, but they’re basically bound and constrained in that wrangling by “the pre-existing law.”
My off the cuff guesses (tossed about with Sister School and My Own Private Idacho) is that people who have not made a systematic study of the law tend to hold different ideas at the same time. Some of these are:
Here’s the kicker though – things don’t work that way. (Kapow!)
The image of an umpire calling balls and strikes is a nice one – it implies our legal system is a way of hashing out differences according to fair rules everyone agrees on.
In reality though, it’s often something like the Yankees v. the Kansas City Royals – the money tends to win out over the long haul. Further, it’s often something like the Yankees staffed by a bunch of position players that tend to routinely bend “the rules.” (So what if Carl Everett erases the batter's box and then stands outside it - he's done it all his career?) And the umpires are like umpires – in “judgment calls,” like close balls and strikes, they rule generously with those they like, tend to squeeze those they don’t like. How well did Robbie Alomar fare after he spit in Hirschbeck’s face? (Answer – his walks went from 90 to 40.)
In short, the system tends to favor certain outcomes over others.
When Roberts says things like “I have no agenda,” he’s lying – he has an agenda, unless he means he's simply going to randomly thow a dart at a yes/no dartboard every time he has to vote on a case. By saying "I have no agenda," Robert's agenda might be most reasonably interpreted as "I'd like to keep things the way they are and will behave much like my mentors with whom I agree."
When he says things like “Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around" (followed by his umpire enforcing the rule metaphor), he’s engaging in a gross misstatement of fact.
Judges (especially Supreme Court Justices) *do* in fact, *make* the law, as opposed to “finding” the law in a book somewhere, or “enforcing” something that is already clear and inevitable. That is, they choose between several “rational” options, sets of legal arguments, and pick which one they’d like to enforce. In reality, the Justices often rule (vote) along straight up political lines. This is possible because legal arguments are almost always paired with counter arguments, or there are ways of killing arguments early on, if they look like something that might cause you problems.
As Section 3 is so fond of noting, the law is not determinative. That means the arguments themselves don’t tell you about what the courts will eventually decide. Courts are capable of some surprising contortions based on what’s at stake. Take Bush v. Gore as an example. The bottom line was what remedy should be put in place – a recount of some kind (election perhaps to Gore?), or no recount (election to Bush). The conservative justices (Rehnquist, O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas) threw aside their established arguments and used essentially liberal arguments to justify “no recount” – the outcome that suited their political ends. The more liberal justices (Breyer, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg) threw aside their established arguments and used essentially conservative arguments to justify “recount” – the outcome that suited their political ends.
There’s no such thing as “neutral rules of the game” that are fairly enforced by a neutral arbiter.
Judicial Activism: You’ve always got it. Call it “originalism” or call it “textualism” or call it “enforcing the rules,” you still have judges actively interpreting what the Constitution means, what statues mean, and picking and choosing from a bevy of options.
BTW – Originalism and Textualism advance a common sense idea that you ought to go back to the original intention of the framers, or read “the plain language” of a statute (or the Constitution) when it was written without imposing one’s own interpretation to figure out what it means. (Just like enforcing the rules of the game, right? Seems easy and fair, right?)
The problems with this?
1 Fundamentally, it’s impossible. Reading pre-supposes interpretation on behalf of the reader. There is no “outside meaning” that the reader arrives at. Instead, the reader, based on her experiences, walks away with what she thinks is the “most likely” reading of a text, based on her experiences as a reader and in life. Many texts refer to ideas that are shifting or abstract.
Suppose I wrote: “Scoplaw behaved outrageously.” Right away, you have to start imagining, start interpreting. And it’s to a relative standard. Which Scoplaw? What kind of behavior? What’s outrageous? Suppose we agree that modern dictionaries define “outrageous” “unconventional behavior likely to shock people.” We’re still left with the questions of outrageous to whom? What does “likely” mean, specifically? What’s “shock”? Is it different from “alarm” or “concern”? Is something outrageous in a nursing home but acceptable in a stripclub?
There is no objective, unchanging, neutral standard to which we may infallibly turn for a definition we can apply to real world scenarios. There ain’t no “there” there.
Granted, some things *are* easy to agree on – but it’s the gray areas that are of concern, that are in contention. And the Supreme court mostly hears gray areas – areas where there’s a good argument to be made for both sides of a case. Say, in a case where a statute or the Constitution, however “clearly” it might be worded, is argued to apply or to not apply in a given case. The Justices must pick and choose (even when going after what they think is the "original" meaning) – and that picking and choosing, through the very act of picking and choosing, will *always* involve some level of interpretation and uncertainty.
Which is not to say we can’t *judge* whether something is outrageous in a given context, but that judging involves judgment calls - i.e., active *interpretation* by us. The above is also not to say we can’t say something like: “I’d like to judge cases fairly, by sticking close to my informed understanding of the rules, paying attention to the equity of the parties, and ruling in a way which I hope is both humane and consistent with prior judgments in similar cases." Of course this begs the question of what is fair. Is the death penalty "fair"? Or is it an issue that has pro and con points? Something that intelligent people can disagree about?
This is exactly why you want to know about a potential Justice's politics. Of course the justices will always try to be "just" and "fair" and "enforce the rules." Of course this means disagreement along political lines. Our recently much lauded Chief Justice (and mentor to Roberts) was "just and fair" when he made his decision about a handicapped man who had to crawl, like a dog, into a courthouse, and then subsequently refused to do so a second time and was arrested and jailed for "failure to appear". Rehnquist found the man had not suffered a violation of his constitutional right to due process or his constutional right to equal protection:
". . .the mere existence of an architecturally "inaccessible" courthouse--i.e., one a disabled person cannot utilize without assistance--does not state a constitutional violation. A violation of due process occurs only when a person is actually denied the constitutional right to access a given judicial proceeding. We have never held that a person has a constitutional right to make his way into a courtroom without any external assistance. Indeed, the fact that the State may need to assist an individual to attend a hearing has no bearing on whether the individual successfully exercises his due process right to be present at the proceeding. Nor does an "inaccessible" courthouse violate the Equal Protection Clause, unless it is irrational for the State not to alter the courthouse to make it "accessible." But financial considerations almost always furnish a rational basis for a State to decline to make those alterations."
Just neutrally enforcing the rules I guess. Thankfully, the majority of the justices had a different view on the matter.
But let’s not kid ourselves, we can’t say things like, “I’m just going to enforce the rules, not make them,” because how you decide cases will automatically engage your subjective judgment between at least two different outcomes. It’s a disingenuous thing to say or to imply.
Assuming that ear wax (or brain wax) creates problems for the above, here are a few to chew on:
2 The framer’s didn’t always agree – there is no “single meaning” to look back to. For example, do we look at the framers themselves, or the delegates that voted on it, or what the majority of each state *thought* they were getting themselves into based on their understanding of the matter?
3 The Constitution is often silent on issues.
4 The Constitution is often deliberately vague or relative on issues.
5 Why should we let our best guess at what 18th century social values a small or large group of people held dear to constrain our sense of what is just and applicable today?
My Own Private Idaho uses the Law School Confidential multiple hi-lighter approach. Today I asked her if this skews her perception of colors. Does she think “Dissent” whenever she sees Orange?
She did not answer directly, but said she was sporting a lovely combo top – procedural history and policy arguments.
And be ready to e-mail your congressman expressing your thoughts on Roberts. I don’t know how much time I’ll have, but I’ll try to point out a few spoilers.
Recycled from a student-body e-mail:
Tomorrow at noon, the Senate Judiciary Committee will commence its hearings on the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. to be Chief Justice of the United States. This is the first such Senate hearing since Justice Breyer's confirmation in 1994 and the first hearing for a Chief Justice since the late Chief Justice Rehnquist was confirmed in 1986.
The Senate hearings on Monday afternoon will include opening statements by Senators Spector and Leahy, followed by opening statements by the other sixteen members of the Committee. After those statements, Judge Roberts will make his opening statement, which should be in the later part of the afternoon.
Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon promise to be the more lively days. Judge Roberts must respond to questions posed by each of the 18 members of the Committee. Each Senator has up to 30 minutes to ask questions and will alternative by party. The first round of questioning will accordingly take all day Tuesday (and possibly into the evening). Questioning will continue on Wednesday, including follow up questioning that should again take most of the day. The questioning should be over no later than Thursday and will, before it is completed, include a closed-door untelevised round of questioning related to the FBI report on Judge Roberts.
On either Thursday of Friday, Judge Roberts will be excused and there will be testimony by two panels of witnesses: one panel in support and the other in opposition. Unless the Committee subsequently concludes that there is reason for a second round of questioning next week, the Committee will vote sometime late next week and, if the Committee makes favorable recommendation, the full Senate will act on that recommendation approximately one week later.