28 October 2009

The Philadelphia Bar Association is not serious about helping underemployed attorneys

From today's e-mail:
Training Program for Attorneys
Who Need to Develop New Business

Presented by the Training Resource Group and the Philadelphia Bar Association

[ ... ]

Fee: The cost is $795 per participant which includes four training sessions, one individual coaching session and materials.
Holy mother of christ, 800 clams to teach newly laid-off attorneys and new graduates how to hand out business cards, network, and hustle for new clients and gigs?

If the Philadelphia Bar Association were truly interested in reducing un- and underemployment among area lawyers, they would organize job fairs to get firms and attorneys to meet and hire one another. Or put up some kind of online legal services delivery clearinghouse where potential clients could find lawyers and hire them. Or sponsor events where solo practitioners with few or even no clients in their books could meet and explore putting together their own firms or legal services organizations so that underserved constituencies could hire them. Instead, the PBA offers this course, which seeks to
[d]evelop and implement a cost effective training program targeted at introducing business development skills to attorneys. After completing the program, participants will have the mindset, skills, and confidence to create an individual business development plan, successfully network and create strategic partnerships, better cross-sell current clients and build account relationships at a higher level. The program will focus on teaching tactics and techniques that will help participants to develop new opportunities and turn those opportunities into new clients.
Sounds like "how to bill your dwindling client base more and more money, even as you're losing them because they can't afford you any more" and "how to get those clients to refer you, at your increased rates, to more clients" and "how to make other attorneys think these tactics are actually finding you work" to me.
Friday, Dec. 4
Building a Stronger Network
Learn the secrets to participating in, or founding, a successful peer group, accountability group or referral group.
Secrets? It's a $200 secret (one quarter of the course) to toss your pals some e-mail suggesting that you pool your resources and share an office or put a firm together?
Friday, Nov. 20
The Basics of Networking and Building a Memorable 30-Second Commercial
Learn the basics of networking. Develop a plan that will help you choose appropriate events to attend how to approach each event, and tips for turning the events into business contacts.
What's an event where it's appropriate to hand someone a business card? Here, I'll save you another $200. YES: A cocktail party or gallery opening; a summer barbecue; an alumni event for any school you've attended; the holiday party at your partner's work. NO: A funeral; a transaction involving controlled substances; an evening at the Pleasure Garden (NSFW).

It's every lawyer for herself, I think. Best to go out on your own (or find a small group of pals with skills in complementary areas of practice), underbid the firms, and use that Jenkins membership of yours for all the LexisNexis access it can get you.

27 October 2009

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at Triumph Brewery's upstairs bar, where there are drink and food specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!

Triumph Brewery is at 117 Chestnut Street in Old City. It's conveniently SEPTA-accessible via the Market-Frankford El (2nd Street station), all the buses that turn around at or near Penn's Landing (5, 12, 17, 21, 33, 42, 48), and a few other buses that pass nearby (9, 25, 38, 40, 44, 47, 57, 61).

This week's topic: Convince me that my local baseball franchise isn't doomed.

"Come for the beer, stay for the check"

26 October 2009

UPDATE: Father in latest DHS travesty case suicides in jail

The father of Charlenny Ferreira has suicided in county jail rather than face his fate in prison as the father of a girl who was sexually abused, beaten until she had a broken hip, and finally killed by blows to the torso that broke her ribs, which, left untreated, led to a collapsed lung and death by pneumonia.

The girl's stepmother, who has stated that Charleeni limped because she "had recently gained weight," is still in jail.

The newspapers don't seem to agree how to spell her name. The Inky reports "Charleeni"; the Metro reports "Charlenny"; the Daily News reports "Charlenni." (The criminal docket summaries I found don't include her name at all.) That the media can't get her name right makes the story even more pathetic.

How does Anne Marie Ambrose sleep at night? Why hasn't she discontinued DHS's deadly scheme of outsourcing its family supervision work to outside contractors? How many more Philadelphia children are going to die these miserable deaths?

DHS fails another girl, who dies after years of horrific abuse

Philadelphia's Department of Human Services has failed, again, to help a girl who had been reported to them. This time, it was Charlenni Ferreira, a 10-year-old dead of an untreated lung infection, whose body showed signs of years of physical and sexual abuse, including "a gash on her head that had been covered with a hair weave" and other "severe head trauma, bruising of her back, leg and torso, a recent fractured hip bone and injuries."

Her neighbors said she walked funny -- that is, the few times they saw her outside her house. Police are calling her injuries evidence of "years of horrific, tortuous abuse," including sexual assaults and clear indications of severe beatings.

Where was DHS? A school nurse reported Charlenni multiple times to DHS, but the DHS pediatrician didn't think that Charlenni's funny walk, multiple bruises, and swollen face indicated abuse. DHS sent one of its private contractors to check up, but they closed her case.

Sound familiar? DHS's trained-monkey outside contractor failed Charlenni during 2006, the same year Danieal Kelly was found starved to death and covered in bedsores after DHS outside contractor MultiEthnic Behavioral Health falsified documents saying that they had, in fact, checked up on her and that she was, in fact, thriving. This time, a group of trained monkeys called Family Preservation, a family support services program by Congreso, are the ones who closed Charlenni's case after a mere 3 months of investigation.

We're 3 years past Danieal Kelly's death. Why hasn't DHS gotten their act together yet? How much money are they pouring into these outside contractors, who clearly do no work at all? Who the hell is the pediatrician who decided that Charlenni wasn't being abused, and where is he or she practicing? How many more children are going to die on DHS's and that pediatrician's watch?

24 October 2009

Now men can get Gardasil, too

The FDA has just "approved use of the vaccine Gardasil for the prevention of genital warts (condyloma acuminata) due to human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6 and 11 in boys and men, ages 9 through 26."

Since Gardasil is administered as a series of 3 injections, I've joked that my daughter will be getting the vaccine "early and often." Of course, the truth behind that joke is that I'm so happy I can do something so concrete to reduce her lifetime risk of cervical cancer. I hope the parents of her future partners feel the same way about their kids!

Drexel Shaft to be demolished next month

Word on the street is that the Drexel Shaft (turn your sound off first) will be brought down by Controlled Demolition, Inc. (CDI), on Sunday 8 November, at 7:30 a.m. The Shaft is not actually a Drexel University structure, but is a chimney for an old Pennsylvania Railroad steam plant. The property belongs to Amtrak; the demolition may be related to the $25 million in stimulus money that Amtrak just got for upgrades along the northeast corridor.

As for CDI, they're known for bringing down various old casinos in Vegas, Seattle's Kingdome in 2000 (video), and some buildings in New York, depending on whom you believe.

23 October 2009

Men I've dated, part n in a series

Really, I'm not in the habit of bringing home men from bars. I'll recount two of them here. Keep in mind that the tales may not be too accurate, since they originated in bars. And furthermore, who knows how true are the tales men spin to me in bars? How true are the tales I spin in bars to men about myself?

One of my bar dates told me he was a world-class soccer player. He had been selected to play for the U.S. in the World Cup, but suffered some horrible back injury and could no longer play competitively. He accompanied the team for the trip and enjoyed the trip immensely -- France 1998? Italy 1990? -- but gave up soccer and went to engineering school instead. How true was his story? He was built like an ex-athlete: heavily muscled as if from years of training, broad shoulders as if from physical therapy to heal a back injury, a belly as if from working behind a computer during the day and hanging around bars at night. He name-dropped the owner of the gastropub several times and had come downstairs after celebrating some kind of dinner or get-together with a crowd of friends. He wrote his phone number on a coaster, but I never called him afterward because his friends had taken his keys from him. I don't want to get involved with a man-child alcoholic again, even if he does have a soccer player's stamina.

Several months earlier, I was studying in my "local," a dive bar with very cheap basket food specials and continually discounted PBR but a few good offerings on tap. I did a lot of law school studying in this bar. Sometimes I would set up my laptop computer at a table in the early afternoon and prepare notes for the next couple of days' classes. Sometimes I would simply take a casebook and a highlighter to the corner stool at the bar. Most of the time I'd last three pints, at which point I would join in on some nearby conversation, or another regular would stop by and I'd decide to be social, or I'd have had too many pints to study efficiently -- after enough time had passed for me to finish three pints, I would do best to take a study break anyway.

Some younger guy from the neighborhood was sitting a few stools down from me and was intrigued that I was drinking one of the local microbrews rather than a PBR or lager or Budweiser bottle. We talked about local microbrews, the lack of a wide range of choices at my local, and the wider range of options at the Belgian gastropubs here in Philly. We ended up at my place in short order. He was tall and skinny, not athletic or post-athletic, but the tall, skinny type that I'd been attracted to when I was a teen. It was a highly enjoyable encounter. A week or so later we met at one of the city's Belgian gastropubs for further beer appreciation. It was very humid, and rain came and went sporadically. On the way home we sort of shared an umbrella, but he walked very fast, and I'm a short person. The rain came down harder. I hadn't brought my own umbrella. We separated at a corner between his apartment and my home; he didn't walk me to my door, though it's about three blocks from his. I quit texting him for another beer-appreciation date after he declined twice, explaining both times that he had a prior commitment with friends from high school.

He sent me e-mail about a month ago wanting to know if I was free. I didn't answer, even though I was, and since then I still haven't found someone to go out and appreciate craft brews with.

22 October 2009

PFA orders don't help, but here's how to get one in Philadelphia

This situation is not unusual:
About fifteen minutes later, a man in his early 40s riddled his estranged wife with bullets and then fatally shot himself inside their home on Maple Avenue near Trevose in Somerton, [Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott] Small said. Neither victim was identified by police.

"The wife had recently gotten a protection from abuse order, but that didn't stop him from calling her or showing up," Small said.

The man and his estranged wife were both pronounced dead inside at the scene, he added.
A Protection from Abuse (PFA) order is a piece of paper. It stops bullets, knives, baseball bats, and vehicles about as well as any other piece of paper can. It does not go onto the abuser's criminal record, because it's a civil action. It helps you in only 2 ways: the cops may come faster if you tell them you have taken out a PFA against the guy who's stalking you, again, or has broken into your house and started hitting you, again; and the Commonwealth can add a few more criminal charges against your abuser if he's arrested for abusing you again after you get it.

And that's if you get one in the first place. I volunteered at 34 South 11th Street while I was in law school, helping victims of domestic violence understand the hoops they had to jump through to get their PFAs. And there are a lot of hoops.

First, if you go to the wrong office, you can't get a PFA. Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) are for neighbors, co-workers, and other non-relatives, non-intimates, and non-members of your household. You get a TRO by entering 34 S. 11th St. by a door directly east of the door for PFAs -- it's not just a different office, it's basically a different building. Oh, and outside of ordinary weekday business hours, you have to go to the Criminal Justice Center at 13th and Filbert Streets instead. I'm not sure how many other counties and major American cities make you go to 2 different buildings depending on what hour of the day or day of the week you got beaten up, but there you are.

Second, I hope you don't need much food and that you have childcare arranged for the day. You aren't allowed to bring food or drink into the waiting room, and there are no amenities for kids. But if you leave, you may lose your place on the list, and you'll have to start from scratch.

The ladies' room down the hall is filthy and is mostly used as a smoking room. It hasn't been renovated in at least 25 years.

The system is not computerized. You go into a back room or cubicle and talk to a court functionary -- the back area smells of cigarettes because at least one of the functionaries prefers the office to the ladies' room -- where you start your paperwork. All the papers from that morning's petitioners are physically walked over to the courtrooms. After a while, perhaps even hours or after the office's lunch break, you'll be called to speak before the judge. If you've used the right keywords in your petition (and the functionaries are not terribly helpful in wording the paperwork, and are sometimes actively unhelpful), then you'll get your temporary PFA and some more paperwork. If you haven't used the right keywords, then you have to go home and come back later with bigger bruises. Here's a list of good keywords and phrases:
  • He placed me in fear of bodily injury
  • He caused me bodily injury
  • He touched me sexually without my consent
  • He stalked me
  • He controlled my money
  • Sometimes there are some law students in the lobby area outside the waiting room. They have a lot of brochures to share with you, but the court allows the law students only to hand out brochures. The court has notified the agencies and schools that bring the law students in that they are specifically not permitted to help petitioners with their paperwork, even if it would expedite the process, shorten waiting times, and improve the overall quality of services at 34 South 11th Street. For instance, a big thing that petitioners often miss is including the names of non-resident children or resident close relatives on the petition. Omitted names won't be included in the final order. But the court would rather allow petitioners to accidentally omit a name or two on the paperwork than to have law students help the petitioners.

    Another thing petitioners tend to miss is to fail to "shoot the moon." That is, it doesn't hurt to ask for full custody, full child support, payment for personal injury, compensation for loss of property or wages, and counsel fees. Worst you can hear is "no," but you won't even hear that if you don't ask. The court employees zip through the petition paperwork so quickly that they often won't bother to suggest asking.

    So now you have your temporary PFA and some more paperwork. The "more paperwork" is court papers you have to serve on your abuser, just like in any other lawsuit. But unlike any other lawsuit in Pennsylvania, you can't serve your abuser by mail. You must personally hand the papers to your abuser (or you can maybe get a cop to do it for you). Philadelphia County is the only county in the Commonwealth where you have to personally serve your abuser. That makes Philly one awesome place to live.

    After you've served your abuser, you have to come back to court to get the real PFA. Your abuser has the right to be there and call you a liar, and he can probably get away with some nasty language and intimidating behavior before he's finally kicked out of the courtroom. Try to dress nice so that the judge takes you seriously. Make sure you ask for the full 36-month PFA.

    The Philadelphia courts have published a useful guide to obtaining a PFA (PDF); note that the guide is "sponsored" by the Philadelphia Bar Association, which suggests to me that Family Court wouldn't have produced it on its own initiative. If you need a PFA, your best bet is to read that document carefully and call Women Against Abuse (215-686-7082) or Community Legal Services (215-981-3700). Good luck, and certainly don't take this post as some kind of suggestion for self-help.

    20 October 2009

    Driberally tonight

    Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at Triumph Brewery's upstairs bar, where there are drink and food specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!

    Triumph Brewery is at 117 Chestnut Street in Old City. It's conveniently SEPTA-accessible via the Market-Frankford El (2nd Street station), all the buses that turn around at or near Penn's Landing (5, 12, 17, 21, 33, 42, 48), and a few other buses that pass nearby (9, 25, 38, 40, 44, 47, 57, 61).

    This week's topic: Silent Running. That's the name I was trying to remember last week, of the 1970s film where there are no plants left on Earth, and the last ones are on greenhouse spaceships, and Bruce Dern has to save the last ship. His ship's name is the Valley Forge, which I think was confusing some people last week as to the name of the film. As to how it compares to Rollerball, I think we'll have to have a movie night, particularly including The Omega Man, to come to a true appreciation of that particular sub-genre of film.

    Oh, and the local law school chapters of the American Constitution Society are having a networking happy hour tonight. It is likely that not one of the law students who attend were yet born when Mad Max was theatrically released.

    "Come for the beer, stay for the check"

    16 October 2009

    10 pages in the San Fernando Valley

    What do women performers get out of their jobs in porn?
    [Highly successful porn film director] Jim [Powers] isn't the bad guy. He's the good guy. "I sleep at night," he informs me, his voice rising, "because I know, in my heart of hearts, I'm giving people money, that could not hold a job at fucking McDonald's, for the most part. I'm paying people's rent." He waves his hands spastically. "It's a lot more than I can say for a lot of the companies in America, pieces of shit, like Madoff, and Enron, all of these son of a bitches the Bush administration funded that do nothing but take, take, take! Here, I just give, give, give! And this is a fact!" he shouts, wild-eyed. "We are helping these girls! Anybody that comes into this business, for the most part, is a broken toy." He leans towards me, earnestly attempting to make himself understood. "We're giving them a place where they can make money, and get by, so they're not standing on line in a welfare department. Thank God for people like me!" He bangs the desk.
    How about the men?
    The men were there for many different reasons. They were lonely. They were horny. This was their fantasy. They wanted to be porn stars. They were fresh out of jail. They were social outcasts. They longed to be somebody, if only for a few minutes.

    Afterwards, one polite young man in his twenties explained to me why he had taken Powers up on this opportunity to jerk off onto the face of a young woman whom he had never met before: "I'm not involved with anyone right now."

    They were desperate men who had congregated on a barren soundstage in North Hollywood, stripped to their underpants with their faces hidden behind bandanas, all in the hopes of a fleeting chance at intimacy with a young, attractive, naked woman who would in the real world -- they knew in all likelihood -- never speak to them, much less allow any of them to come on her face, were she not being paid to be there.
    Exceedingly interesting and NSFW 10-page article by Susannah Breslin, "They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?"

    15 October 2009

    NYT misses the rest of the James Pouillon murder story

    A New York Times article posted about a week ago calls James Pouillon "proof that abortion doctors are not the only ones under duress," nearly calling him a martyr to the peaceful anti-abortion cause.

    But the article omits any reference to Pouillon's son's accusations back in September that his dad was a woman-hating domestic abuser who protested abortion not to protest abortion, but rather "to stalk, harass, terrorize, scream at, threaten, frighten, and verbally abuse women" any chance he got. "He was at the high school," the younger Pouillon points out, "because my niece was there, and female family members were always his favorite targets."

    mlive.com link via Mithras.

    14 October 2009

    Study: when abortions are outlawed, only outlaws get abortions

    The Guttmacher Institute has released a study that shows what most women already know anyway: when abortions are outlawed, only outlaws will get abortions:
    The Guttmacher Institute's survey found abortion occurs at roughly equal rates in regions where it is legal and regions where it is highly restricted.

    It did note that improved access to contraception had cut the overall abortion rate over the last decade.

    But unsafe abortions, primarily illegal, have remained almost static.
    In other words, banning abortions doesn't make the abortion rate go down. It only makes the safe abortion rate go down. It drives women to get illegal, dangerous abortions, either self-induced or performed by unlicensed practitioners using abortifacient toxins, such as "pouches containing arsenic" -- I like the phrase poison pessary myself. These practices lead to hospitalizations, lifelong disability, future infertility, and early death. When such a woman seeks an abortion because she already has children at home, then now we're talking motherless children, to the tune of 70,000 dead mothers globally every year.

    On the other hand, when women are educated about contraception and can obtain it, the rate of unwanted pregnancies goes down -- which means fewer abortions, whether safe or unsafe, legal or illegal.

    Because about 1/3 of all American women will have at least 1 abortion during their childbearing years, you know a woman who's had an abortion, whether she's told you or not. Women will seek abortions whether they are safe, legal, and fully paid by insurance, or whether they have to get them under less feminist circumstances. If you care about women, mothers, and children, then you care about their access to safe, legal abortion.

    13 October 2009

    Orly Taitz update III: Judge Land: "My bad, make that $20,000"

    Judge Clay Land has doubled his originally threatened sanction and assessed a $20,000 penalty against "attorney" Orly Taitz for her breathtaking Rule 11 violations in Rhodes v. MacDonald (PDF):
    When a lawyer files complaints and motions without a reasonable basis for believing that they are supported by existing law or a modification or extension of existing law, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer uses the courts as a platform for a political agenda disconnected from any legitimate legal cause of action, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer personally attacks opposing parties and disrespects the integrity of the judiciary, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer recklessly accuses a judge of violating the Judicial Code of Conduct with no supporting evidence beyond her dissatisfaction with the judge’s rulings, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law, that lawyer ceases to advance her cause or the ends of justice.

    [ ... ]

    Regrettably, the conduct of counsel Orly Taitz has crossed these lines, and Ms. Taitz must be sanctioned for her misconduct. After a full review of the sanctionable conduct, counsel’s conduct leading up to that conduct, and counsel’s response to the Court’s show cause order, the Court finds that a monetary penalty of $20,000.00 shall be imposed upon counsel Orly Taitz as punishment for her misconduct, as a deterrent to prevent future misconduct, and to protect the integrity of the Court.
    And that's just from the introductory comment and order. The judge's opinion (PDF) goes into much more detail and provides the nuts-and-bolts Rule 11 legal reasoning behind the penalty.

    In short, this was the third time, and in the second federal court, where Taitz had shopped around her attempt to get a lawsuit started that would require President Obama to submit his birth certificate into evidence. Judge Land ordered her to show cause why he should not fine her $10,000 for violating Rule 11, and instead she filed a Motion for Recusal (PDF) against him that reads worse than most of the less-than-literate filings you see from pro se tax protestors. Accordingly, Judge Land has denied the motion and fined Taitz, attaching an opinion that's like a Cliff's Notes of what arguments not to make to a federal judge, even a Bush appointee (hint: don't compare yourself to Justice Thurgood Marshall and your case to Brown v. Board).

    Mithras had wondered about the fate of the sad sack local counsel who must have vouched for Taitz in order for her to be admitted pro hac vice. Judge Land mentions in Section III of the Background part of his opinion that "[b]ecause of the alleged urgent nature of the request, the Court waived its local rule that requires counsel admitted pro hac vice to associate local counsel." But it looks as though the judge sincerely regrets that decision, since Taitz used much of her oral argument time to threaten the court that she would file "a wave of subsequent similar actions" if she didn't get the discovery she was fishing for . . . basically the exact conduct that Rule 11 aims at.

    Why did the court double the threatened sanction? Because, by filing a nonsense motion for recusal and a "Motion for Enlargement of Time" (PDF), Taitz exhibited a "pattern of conduct reveal[ing] that it will be difficult to get [her] attention" without hitting her with a "significant sanction." Which is legalese for "don't accuse yer judge of treason in a signed pleading, dumbass." (Of course, it's not that simple. Taitz had forced the court to interrupt an ongoing jury trial, have an expedited hearing, draft multiple responses to her filings on an expedited basis -- and finally
    draft the present order, which is longer than it should be because the Court must address the additional frivolous arguments made by counsel in her motion to recuse and also must make sure the Court of Appeals has the complete picture of counsel’s misconduct. Although the Court has not attempted to place a price tag on the time and expense caused by counsel’s misconduct, any objective observer can ascertain that it is substantial.
    But hey, look at the bright side. It's a textbook example of what Rule 11 is for.)

    Finally, dig the court's footnote 11:
    The Court wishes to explore the possibility of directing the financial penalty to the National Infantry Foundation at Ft. Benning, Georgia, which has as part of its mission the recognition of our brave soldiers who do their duty regardless of the personal sacrifice required and their own personal political beliefs. The Assistant U.S. Attorney shall file within thirty days of today’s Order a short brief outlining the position of the United States as to whether such a monetary sanction can be used for this intended purpose. The Court emphasizes that the Court is ordering the penalty be paid to the United States as required under Rule 11 and not to a third party, but the Court seeks to determine whether the Court is authorized to subsequently order that the proceeds be paid by the United States to the Foundation.

    Driberally tonight

    Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at Triumph Brewery's upstairs bar, where there are drink and food specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!

    Triumph Brewery is at 117 Chestnut Street in Old City. It's conveniently SEPTA-accessible via the Market-Frankford El (2nd Street station), all the buses that turn around at or near Penn's Landing (5, 12, 17, 21, 33, 42, 48), and a few other buses that pass nearby (9, 25, 38, 40, 44, 47, 57, 61).

    This week's topic: Recently in Colorado, a health insurance company denied coverage to an otherwise very healthy 4-month-old baby who was in the 99th percentile for his weight, explaining that they won't cover babies who weigh more than the 95th percentile. (Note that breast-fed babies, like the one in question here, often get fat so quickly that their weight measurements go off the charts, because the charts are based on growth curves for formula-fed babies, who don't gain weight as quickly.) Facing the negative PR that comes from insisting that the parents starve their baby down to a "healthier" weight, and a pediatrician who apparently explained to them that BMI is not a valid indicator for gauging infant health, the insurer has since reversed itself and has decided to cover this gorgeous, obviously thriving child and other "fat" babies (PDF). But it makes me want to ask: What's your pre-existing condition?

    "Come for the beer, stay for the check"

    09 October 2009

    Friday jukebox: Elton John

    For my friends, especially everybody last weekend at the wedding:

    This Broadway's got
    It's got a lot of songs to sing
    If I knew the tunes I might join in
    [ ... ]
    I thank the lord for the people I have found

    08 October 2009

    Glomarization, almost-Esq.

    Results from July's Pennsylvania bar exam are out, and I passed!

    About 1 more month until I hear whether I'm admitted to the Commonwealth's bar.

    Men I've dated, part n in a series

    In the early 1990s I was halfway through my undergrad degree, and my high-school boyfriend invited me to his wedding. He had gone to a small state university out West, while I stayed in the mid-Atlantic to finish high school and start college more locally. We'd kept up the long-distance relationship for a while, going through a fortune in long-distance dimes (this was the olden days, before everyone had e-mail); but eventually he fell in love with a fellow engineering student, and they married in the summer after his college graduation.

    It wasn't the first time I'd driven across the country. The first time had been with that same high-school boyfriend, to help him return to school his sophomore year. I remember the car, a 1983 Chevy Cavalier wagon. We hung our graduation tassels, 198x and 199x, from the rearview mirror -- do kids still do that? We stopped at Wall Drug, where I bought a waxed-cotton hat with a leather wind cord. We visited Yellowstone National Park, which at the time was astoundingly beautiful with the wildflowers that proliferated after the 1988 fires. The car's odometer flipped to 100,000 miles somewhere near the Continental Divide in Montana; we stopped and took pictures. A few months later, the graduation tassels were lost when someone broke into the car to steal the rearview mirror. I never understood why they hadn't left the tassels behind.

    The wedding was the first I attended in the circle of my age-mates, and it showed. The couple obviously had a very limited budget; the groom asked for his parents' permission to break a glass for good luck; I wore a type of inappropriately short dress that only someone in her early 20s could get away with; and on the strength of that dress I slept with the best man a few times, sometime later that fall when we were both back East.

    But this post isn't about my high-school boyfriend or his best man; it's about the date I took to his wedding. My date was someone I'd met in a social club at university. He was short. He bore a striking resemblance to John Denver, so much so that some people in our social club called him that when he wasn't there to hear. He was a little older and was going back to school after a stint in the Army. He was good at camping and hiking and making do on a road trip with a limited budget. Late 1 night while we were camping, he pointed out some of the more obscure constellations to me, which I appreciated. Then he told me that if I looked at them indirectly I'd see them better, which irritated me, because I already knew that trick. He expanded my practical understanding of driving a stick-shift car by making me the designated driver out of Mile High Stadium's parking lot and into the Denver mousetrap after he'd had a few during a baseball game.

    We drove his 1979 Toyota Celica Supra. When we ran the air conditioning, the gearbox heated up dramatically, so most of the drive was very, very hot. Somewhere in Colorado he put "Rocky Mountain High" on the cassette player and I had to turn my face very quickly to the window so that he wouldn't see me laughing and ask why.

    The road trip itself was largely uneventful. We camped a couple of nights, slept other nights in overpriced interstate motels, and mostly spent as much time as we could on the road because we had to get back to school. Unfortunately for my date, I passed a lot of time on the trip quietly mooning over another fella. Somewhere in Kansas he put "Bridge over Troubled Water" on the cassette player and I had to turn my face to the window so he wouldn't see me coming to tears for missing the other guy, who played a lot of Simon and Garfunkel when we were together. I tried to be a good sport, though, and I put out for my date a few times, including one pine-needly encounter in the tent one cold, mountainous night. But I think we both knew that he was merely my lift to the wedding, and this was my "payment," and we weren't going to be able to continue once we got home. It didn't end gracefully, because I didn't yet have the communication skills or even the self-knowledge to understand what I was doing and be completely honest about it, both to me and to him. Truthfully I feel ashamed about how we ended: I pettily fussed at him over the phone to mail my Swiss Army knife, which I'd left in his car, to my dorm room. I was so young and immature, even for the age I was. I wasn't nice to him at all.

    I haven't seen or talked to him in over 15 years. His name is too common for me to effectively Google him. I used to have a photo of him taken outside Mile High Stadium, but I tossed it years ago. I don't know if he went back into the Army; he's probably not too old to have been sent back to Iraq or Afghanistan. (The best man was Army, too. He went to Iraq in Desert Storm and got sent back for Iraqi Freedom, but in the interim he'd settled down, gotten married, and had 2 kids.) If I ever saw him again, I don't think I'd apologize, but I would acknowledge that I was less than classy with him, and that I hope I didn't turn him against women for too long.

    06 October 2009

    Driberally tonight

    Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at Triumph Brewery's upstairs bar, where there are drink and food specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!

    Triumph Brewery is at 117 Chestnut Street in Old City. It's conveniently SEPTA-accessible via the Market-Frankford El (2nd Street station), all the buses that turn around at or near Penn's Landing (5, 12, 17, 21, 33, 42, 48), and a few other buses that pass nearby (9, 25, 38, 40, 44, 47, 57, 61).

    This week's topic: During a cross-country road trip in 1993, I happened to be driving through Denver when the newly formed Colorado Rockies baseball team was in town. My traveling companion and I decided to stop at Mile High Stadium to watch the game. I still have the cap I bought at the game -- and since it's the only baseball cap I have, I usually wear it whenever I attend anybody's baseball game -- but I probably won't be wearing it this week.

    "Come for the beer, stay for the check"

    05 October 2009

    Alcohol may have been a factor

    A fan who was on the bus and posted his experiences on the local sports blog, The 700 Level, said he didn't know why there was a "big brawl" between the two factions of Flyers fans, but assumed it may have had something to do with all-day drinking.
    You can almost smell the fumes coming off the video at The 700 Level's blog entry.

    02 October 2009

    When a minor in Philadelphia needs an abortion

    So you live in Philadelphia, you're under 18, and you need an abortion. What to do? It's a simple process, really.

    Step 1. Go to New Jersey and get an abortion. If you don't have the means (cash, transportation, etc.) to go to Jersey, proceed to Step 2.

    Step 2. Go to Planned Parenthood. The fee depends on how far along you are. There's also a sliding scale calculation based on your income. Medicaid will not pay for your abortion unless you were raped, or you were a victim of incest, or the pregnancy is endangering your life. Same deal if you're on a public employee's health insurance plan.

    Step 3. Receive your state-mandated counseling. At Planned Parenthood, this counseling consists of a video performed by a doctor who is obviously very irritated and very bored to have to recite the state-mandated language to a roomful of women who need healthcare and the loved ones who are present with them to help them out.

    Step 4. Get the written consent of your parent or legal guardian. If you can't get this consent because (a) your parent or legal guardian is the person who impregnated you; or (b) your parent or legal guardian will beat you, kill you, or kick you out of the house when they learn you're pregnant; or (c) you are an "emancipated minor"; or (d) your known parent is incarcerated, your other parent is unknown or deceased, and your caregiver is not legally your guardian, go to Step 5. If you have the written consent of your parent or legal guardian, skip ahead to Step 6.

    Step 5: Judicial bypass. Meet in a small, windowless room with a volunteer to fill out the paperwork. Your volunteer is likely an earnest, well-meaning, upper-class white law student in their early 20s who can count on 1 hand the number of conversations they've had with someone from your socio-economic class. They've had very little training, but at least they've seen the legalese before. They will ask some very personal questions about your background and your medical status, which are necessary for the paperwork, and then will give you a phone number and name of a lawyer to call at the Philadelphia public defender's office. You do not have to pay this lawyer, and you do not have to pay the court for your judicial bypass. In a few days (because the judges handle judicial bypass cases only on certain days) you'll go to Family Court at 1801 Vine Street with the public defender's office lawyer, and you'll meet with 1 of 3 judges who deal with judicial bypass cases. If you're lucky, you'll get the judge who despises the legal hoops you're being forced to jump through, and they'll sign the bypass order quickly. If you're unlucky, you'll get the judge who will ask you some humiliating questions as to why you need an abortion, why you can't get your mom to sign the consent form, and where your dad is. But this judge will sign the paperwork, too. It is almost 100% certain that you will get your judicial bypass, at which point you may proceed to Step 6.

    Step 6. Wait 24 hours. The state requires that you go home and wait at least 24 hours. The hope is that you reconsider the abortion and decide not to go through with it. The reality is that the delay causes most women to lose twice as many hours at work and school than they otherwise would have to. Note that the 24-hour waiting period -- often more than 24 hours, because clinics do not perform abortions every day of the week -- may have moved your pregnancy so far along that your abortion would now be more complicated, more expensive, or more illegal to perform.

    Step 7. Return to Planned Parenthood and get the abortion. Your appointment will probably be very early in the morning. There will likely be protestors there, holding up gruesome signs, loudly reciting scripture at you, and possibly chanting and shouting. However, volunteer "clinic defense escorts" wearing brightly colored vests will accompany you from your car or from the sidewalk to the clinic door, walking between you and the protestors.

    Step 8. Go home, take a few days off, take care of yourself, and attend any follow-up appointments the clinic staff tell you to attend.

    01 October 2009

    Bar exam results in a week?

    Word on the street is that the July Pennsylvania bar exam results will be posted next Friday.

    Abortion restrictions enjoined in Arizona

    A trial court in Maricopa County, Arizona, has granted a TRO enjoining the enforcement of some new burdensome restrictions on abortion. The restrictions would:
    • require certain information to be delivered "orally and in person," rather than by phone, paper pamphlet, or e-mail;
    • require that information to be delivered by the doctor who would be performing the abortion, or the referring physician, rather than a nurse or other staff member;
    • require that information to be delivered by a doctor or referring physician even where the abortion was a medical one (i.e., RU-486), which can be legally administered by a nurse or physician assistant; and
    • require parental consent for a minor woman's abortion to be in writing and notarized, but with no guidelines for protecting confidentiality and no penalties for breaching confidentiality.
    These restrictions were challenged in court by Planned Parenthood Arizona. Litigation about the validity of the restrictions under the Arizona and U.S. Constitutions is still pending, but in the meantime these provisions won't be enforced.