Friday, September 17, 2010

The Appoinment that Isn't

President Obama appointed Harvard bankruptcy law professor Elizabeth Warren to serve as special assistant to the president, presumably to avoid a tough confirmation battle in the Senate if he gave her the job he really wants her to do: Director of the newly created Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Professor Warren is without question a very smart, hard hitting champion for the middle class. The whole thrust of her consumer protection vision is that the working guy can’t be expected to read the small print and that it’s time government started “looking out for the folks.” On the merits of her ideas, I can see why the banks are nervous. And I can see why turf-protecting administrators in DC are nervous. But apart from partisan knee-jerkism (and maybe there is nothing happening in DC apart from that), I don’t see a valid objection to her appointment as bureau director. Although I don’t agree with the way she proposes to protect the folks, I greatly admire that she has staked her career on what I see as a noble and selfless project. If we are going to have a new $500 million federal agency to pile more regulation on the consumer credit industry that will have no effect on consumers’ appetite for crack, she’s as qualified as anyone. At least I have a pretty good feeling that her hand will not be in the till.

I also have the feeling that nobody can afford crack and the crack dealers are packing up their tents anyway.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Re: Eddie Richardson, Penn State Dickinson School of Law, Class of 2009.

The State College contingent of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law, Class of 2009, showed up on campus in August of 2006- a new thing under the sun. We will be forever bound together, however tenuously as the years march on, by our membership in that class. For now, though, we are tightly bound together by the sad and unexpected news that our classmate and colleague, Eddie Richardson, has died. Two days shy of his twenty seventh birthday.

A light, as they say, has gone out in the world. Yet we may expect that the sky will be a little brighter from now on. Eddie, a luminescent figure in life, has ascended. Perhaps from his new and sky-bound home he will continue to do for us now what he did for us in life: shine his light upon us, and thereby, in the words of that Spanish poem, "...hacer mas claro y luminoso el dia." But now, from up there, he will reach us all at once and always, rather than, as he did in life, shine upon us separately and episodically, through his personal interactions with us.

Many members of our class knew Eddie better than I did. They no doubt can offer meaningful testimony to his life, and they are certainly invited and encouraged to do so here. But I think it says something very positive about Eddie that someone like me, who knew him, but not especially well, remembers him so fondly. He looms large in my memories of law school, and principally for this reason: He was the first person I met at the first orientation event that was held for our class, back in August of 2006. As an older student, and having just left professional life behind, I was nervous walking into the room that day; nervous about fitting in, about being accepted by my new classmates. It was a sort of discomfort I had not felt in years, back to the day I walked, as a stranger in a strange land, into the cafeteria of my new high school. I was all grown-up in 2006 when I walked into the law school orientation event, but in my mind I was right back in my high school cafeteria, embarrassingly desperate for the consolation of a friendly face.

And then there was Eddie. He was sitting at the table I arrived to- maybe he was the reason I arrived at that particular table- already popular with the people there and smiling genuinely back at me. He put me at ease. My nervousness was gone, never to return. That is the sort of kindness a person doesn't forget in life; I haven't and won't. Even if, in Eddie's case, it wasn't so much a kindness done to me as it was an expression of who he was; which was and remains a kindness done to everyone he knew.

I sat next to Eddie in our Administrative Law class during our last semester of law school. He regularly said the best things, most of which betrayed a rare wit and a high intelligence. One of those best things, which however did not tax either his wit or intelligence to conjure, was an occasional and appropriate, "This sucks." And he pronounced the word "sucks" in such a way that anyone unfamiliar with the word or its connotations would nevertheless have known what he meant by it; had he been made to write out his pronunciation, between the 's' and the 'cks' would have been about fourteen pregnant u's.

But then he would smile and go on. Which- in law school and in life- is the thing to do. It's the thing to do not because it's a grand invention, but because it stands well among a limited troupe of truly unpalatable alternatives.

Farewell, gentle-souled Eddie. Shine on down.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Light in August (or September)

End of Summer

by Stanley Kurtz

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones
Amaded, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was forever over.

Already the iron door of the North
Clangs open: birds,leaves,snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.