Saturday, May 30, 2009

Apologia Pro Vita Mia (in search of)

Warning: this thing is autobiographical; read it, if at all, with that understanding. And also with the understanding that my story is not very interesting or noble. It just happens to be the only one I am competent to write about. I have personal knowledge of former classmates who came from less, worked harder, and met with greater misfortune on the road to their JDs. I find their stories repay inspection in better currency than my own.

On May 9th I graduated from Dickinson. I now have a JD degree. I am the first in my family to earn a professional degree, and I am aware of only two cousins with four year degrees. If all goes well, in November I will be notified that I have passed the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bar exams. That notification will mark the end of a long and less than fully happy journey.

In August of 2002, and several years into my working life, it occurred to me (there is no more accurate way to say it) that I should perhaps go to college. And so I did. I had a full time job, so I attended the local community college in the evenings, including over the summer semesters. Two years later I transferred to a four year institution. I earned my BA from that school the month before entering law school full time.

I entered law school full time because I understood it to be a consuming thing, and I didn’t want to perform in a middling way in both law school and at my job. Better to dedicate myself to one thing. That choice was financially ramified, as it meant that I would take on loans and forego a salary for three years. Alas, I dedicated myself to law school and still performed well-nigh middlingly.

The three family dogs died during law school. Two we put to sleep after my first year’s spring exams and before I wrote for the law review competition. I don’t have much to say about their deaths, except that folks who put their dogs to sleep in the way I did should not see Marley and Me, however attracted to Jennifer Aniston they may be. The third was put down this past fall, and left the family home a cathedral of melancholy until the puggle Sammy was acquired (actually rescued from a breeder who somehow supposed a dog looking more like a beagle, and less like a pug, to be a liability). Now my parents dress the poor thing up and take her around as though she were the grandchild I have as yet failed to provide.

An aunt died this spring, and I am embarrassed to say I did not go to the viewing or funeral; she inconveniently died during the busiest week of my semester. She was my mother’s biggest fan (outside her sons), and a very fine woman. It is not a stern enough rebuke to say I should have known better. I did. I should have done better. The law is indeed a jealous mistress, but jealously should not be respected above love.

Now I am in the unfamiliar position of pleading my professional worth, a manifest thing if you ask me, to employers. I am also studying for the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. And that’s all good. At least it's what I signed up for. But it's a restless time.

I am not one of those folks who, if now hit by a bus, could lie on the roadside and say I have no regrets as I shuffle off the mortal coil. I regret many of the decisions I’ve made (not the least but nearly the latest of which is not attending my aunt's viewing and funeral), and I simply haven't done enough of consequence. The thing that most gets me up in the morning, that gets me through the next outline and the next cover letter, is the idea that soon some thing will happen, some opportunity will present itself, that but for the path I followed (but-for causation!) would have remained undiscovered; unavailable. Thus will all that came before be redeemed. And thus will I find the avenue and inspiration to contribute to my fellows on a scale and to a depth my happiness and sense of worth seem to depend upon. That thought keeps me looking ahead; to the day I can be a guy who says he has no regrets. Meantime I am careful around buses.

And folks who consider such looking ahead an unholy or chimerical striving, an unrequitable sacrifice of the here and now, should consider whether they have already arrived, unreflective, to the thing that redeemed their prior acts and omissions, and which leavens all subsequent failures with consolation. That glorifies the here and now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Se Trata De Una Tendencia

President Obama is on a roll. On the same day he nominated Sonia Sotomayor to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, he announced his intention to appoint Miguel Diaz, a Roman Catholic theologian and associate professor at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, to serve as the next US ambassador to the Vatican. Diaz will be the first Hispanic appointed to the post since the US and the Holy See established full diplomatic ties in 1984. Diaz, who was an advisor to Obama's presidential campaign, was born in Havana. He is the son of a waiter and a data entry operator and the first person in his family to attend college.

The outgoing ambassador to the Vatican is Mary Ann Glendon, the Harvard law professor who declined an invitation to receive Notre Dame's top honor, the Laetere Medal, at graduation ceremonies earlier this month in protest of Notre Dame's decision to bestow an honorary degree on Obama notwithstanding his political position supporting abortion rights.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prop 8 Fate

Read the California Supreme Court's opinion in Proposition 8 case.

The court upheld a California Constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. The majority wrote that it was not the court's job to address whether the ban is wise public policy, but to decide whether it is constitutionally valid, while setting aside personal beliefs and values. (at 3).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Searching for an Honest Man

Leon Kass had plenty to say about the state of the humanities as the 2009 Jefferson Lecturer.

I particularly like this:

"Everyone has heard the story of Diogenes the Cynic who went around the sunlit streets of Athens, lantern in hand, looking for an honest man. This same Diogenes, when he heard Plato being praised for defining man as “an animal, biped and featherless,” threw a plucked chicken into the Academy, saying, “Here is Platonic man!” These tales display Diogenes’ cynicism as both ethical and philosophical: he is remembered for mocking the possibility of finding human virtue and for mocking the possibility of knowing human nature. In these respects, the legendary Diogenes would feel right at home today in many an American university, where a professed interest in human nature and human excellence—or, more generally, in truth and goodness—invites reactions ranging from mild ridicule for one’s naiveté to outright denunciation for one’s attraction to such discredited and dangerous notions.

Tracing the stories about Diogenes the Cynic to their source, in Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers, one discovers that the apocryphal story is somewhat embroidered if not incorrect. Yes, Diogenes lit a lantern in broad daylight, but he did not say he was looking for an honest man. What he said was, “I am looking for [or ‘seeking’] human being”—anthrôpon zeto—either a human being or the human being, either an exemplar or the idea of humanity, or both. To be sure, purporting to seek the answer by means of candlepower affirms Diogenes’ badge as cynic. But the picture also suggests a man who refuses to be taken in by complacent popular beliefs that we already know human goodness from our daily experience or by confident professorial claims that we can capture the mystery of our humanity in definitions. But mocking or not, and perhaps speaking better than he knew, Diogenes gave elegantly simple expression to the humanist quest for self-knowledge: I seek the human being—my human being, your human being, our humanity. In fact, the embellished version of Diogenes’ question comes to the same thing: to seek an honest man is, at once, to seek a human being worthy of the name, an honest-to-goodness exemplar of the idea of humanity, a truthful and truth-speaking embodiment of the animal having the power of articulate speech."

Rule of Law RIP

Andrew Grossman, Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Analyst testified before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday at a hearing on Ramifications of Auto Industry Initiatives. Grossman made three points. 1. The Bush and Obama administrations have harmed the US auto industry by intervention meant to save it; 2. The Obama administration has abused its power to sidestep the rule of law, particularly bankruptcy law; and 3. These acts will prolong our current recession unless Congress reverses them.

Grossman's third point follows from the first two. If you mess with the stability of contract and property rights, nothing good can come of that.

Grossman said: "Lenders know how to deal with bankruptcy--it's a well understood risk of doing business. But the tough measures employed by the Obama Administration to cram down debt on behalf of the automakers were unprecedented and will naturally make lenders reluctant to do business with these companies, for fear they could suffer the same fate. . . . Impaired access to debt and capital will stymie future restructuring, investment, and growth, reducing the likelihood that either company will fully rebound and, beyond that, prosper."

And on and on in the downward spiral toward oblivion.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chrysler Rejects 789 Dealers

As part of its bankruptcy case, Chrysler rejected one quarter of its dealership agreements under 11 U.S.C. sec. 365. Check to see if your hometown dealership is on the cut list. 2392 American Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealers will survive the sale to Fiat.

Here's what the axed dealerships heard in Chrysler's press release: “The unprecedented decline in the industry has had a significant impact on our sales and forced us to reduce production levels to better match the needs of the market. With the downsizing of operations after the sale and reduction of plants and production, similar reductions must be made to the size of the dealer body. We appreciate the support of our dealers and regret this painful action. We wish market conditions made it possible to keep everyone.”

In other words, "It's not you, it's me."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Song for Penn State Law Class of 2009

When it first opened, critics panned the musical Wicked (music and lyrics by Steven Schwartz and book by Winnie Holtzman). The musical is based on a novel by Gregory Maguire. The story starts before Dorothy arrived in the Land of Oz and explains how two girls became Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda the Good. Theatre critics called the plot "muddled" and the sound in New York's Gershwin Theater "smearing." No matter. Audiences loved it.

This song is the witches' farewell to each other after a long and sometimes difficult journey together. To the Dickinson School of Law Class of 2009 from me in thanksgiving for the blessing of each other:

For Good

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return

Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you:

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend:

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood,
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you:
Because I knew you:
I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I've done you blame me for
But then, I guess we know
There's blame to share
And none of it seems to matter anymore.

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it
Passes a sun, like
A stream that meets a boulder, half-way
Through the wood

Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better.

Because I knew you:
I have been changed for good.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Tribute To The Enduring American Spirit

Today, Mine That Bird, a small horse with a big heart that cost $9,500 and was a 50-1 shot won the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby! He was trained by a former unknown in New Mexico who drove the hours 21 hours to Kentucky pulling his horse behind his pick-up all the way. When asked, trainer Bennie Woolley Jr. said, "They'll know who I am now."

Mine That Bird ran against million dollar horses and won with 6 and 3/4 lengths to spare, one of the largest margins of victory ever. I love this story and I love that stories like this happen in America every day, not just with horses but with people like you and me. Be encouraged and run like the wind!

Friday, May 1, 2009

In re Chrysler, LLC

Chrysler filed for relief under chaper 11 of the Bankruptcy Code on Thursday in the Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York. Judge Arthur Gonzales is presiding. The filing became necessary after hedge fund creditors holding approximately 30 percent of Chrysler's total debt refused to sign on to the Treasury Department brokered workout by the April 30 deadline. Look at the the petition or go to the SDNY Bankruptcy Court and review the petition and first day motions. (You'll need a Pacer account for the second link). For readers who speak the language, Bankruptcy Litigation Blog has the word on the legal risks and rewards of a section 363 sale and links to affidavits filed with first day motions by Chrysler insiders and disgruntled creditors' experts.

Yes Alison, Jones Day represents Chrysler. The chapter 11 petition signed by Jones Day NY partner and bankruptcy mega celeb Corinne Ball explains that Chyrsler shut down its manufacturing facilities and will remain idle until the bankruptcy case concludes with a court-approved deal with Fiat and Chrysler creditors as outlined by Treasury. She warned that failure to move quickly through bankruptcy would mean liquidation for Chrysler and “the end of an iconic, 83-year-old American car company,” not to mention the loss of jobs for 38,500 people.

The first hearing in the case was this morning. Reuters reports that the courtroom was packed and very hot. Judge Gonzales halted the proceeding briefly when a Dewey & LeBoeuf associate standing with bankruptcy lawyer Martin Bienenstock (for Chrysler Financial) collapsed. Once the paramedics hauled her out, Judge Gonzales decided six motions in an hour.