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What Would People Think?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

My Baby's All Grown Up.....

.....and getting media attention!

The Slant - the student humor paper into which my friends and I invested 3 years of blood, sweat, and laughter (with the occasional tears) - has finally received the recognition it deserves! From The Nashville Scene in its review of local college media:

The Slant
Think penis-joke-obsessed teenage cousin of The Onion. Vanderbilt's mockingly caustic satirist rag ruffled a few feathers when it distributed a bogus edition of The Hustler, falsely reporting Chancellor Gordon Gee's untimely death. Two years and a few faculty censures later, the online edition of Vanderbilt's sophomoric publication features Gee's beaming countenance super-imposed over a busty blonde's pasties-clad rack. The nebbish plutocrat is a popular target for The Slant's perpetually snarky contributors. Once the Weekend at Bernie's-style jousting recedes, The Slant proves to be a worthy contender to The Onion's golden throne of sarcasm.

That's right, baby! The Slant is the next Onion! And, for the record, she wasn't a blonde. At least not the frighteningly artificial blond that most Vandygirls sport.

I think I have some inkling of how proud parents might feel. I put my life and heart into this publication. Perhaps I was a tad obsessive when I literally began referring to it as "my baby." I'm not even sure I'll call my actual babies - whenever they come into existence - by that name. But The Slant - oh, it inspires a special kind of crazy devotion.

I am swelling with pride right now about our little publication that could. It's become part of the Nashville landscape and going strong. Here's to another 5 years!

[For those of you unfamiliar with my staggering comedic genius (read: the entire world, since I'm not a genius) you can read some of my work here. Happy to provide you with more distractions.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Love and Lawyering

Something happened today which clarified to me my central conflict with being both a Christian and a lawyer.

In my Negotiations class today, we were discussing a mock-negotiation exercise we had all just done. One student mentioned what he thought would be a “fair” price in the exercise – a sale of land. The professor proceeded to criticize – if not outright mock – the idea of “fairness” when one is a lawyer representing a client.

Fairness is such a nebulous concept, she said. If your client paid $7,000 and the other guy is willing to pay $20,000 for the same land, who’s to say whether that’s fair? Furthermore, she said, your responsibility is to your client. You should be seeking the best interests of your client, not pursuing some idea of fairness.

This infuriated me. First, off, she’s got a nice, morally neutral hypothesis to work with. But the world isn’t always that way. If you are a lawyer representing, say, the government buying land from a poor family that has nothing in the world but their house…..is it ok, to pull the power of eminent domain as a bargaining chip and force them to take a pitiful price…..thereby leaving them destitute? You haven’t lied or otherwise violated the rules of legal ethics…..BUT IT’S STILL WRONG!

Then, 10 minutes later, the professor was talking about lawyer-client relations. She was talking about how, in the real world, a lawyer’s ego or desire for fees can lead him to NOT take a settlement that would be in his client’s best interests. Now she was advocating selflessness. No matter how much it might benefit you, she said, you cannot think of your own interests when representing clients. If it was your own money, you could do what you want with it. When you are representing someone else, things are different.

And here I encounter my central dilemma.

I know what my duty is as a Christian. Jesus told me so. First, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Second, “Love your neighbor (read: everyone) as yourself.” And this is what I want to do. All I ever wanted to do with my life – when I thought long term about what I want my life to mean, as opposed to when I let my short-term selfishness get in the way – was to love.

And Jesus, hanging up there on that cross for us, provides me with the perfect example of what love is. Love is sacrifice. Love is more than just infatuation, or liking a person. Love is the willingness to put another’s interests ahead of your own.

But what does it mean to love as a lawyer?

I was infuriated by my professor’s comments about fairness, but when she mentioned that this isn’t my own money/interests/whatever that I’m dealing with….well, that muddied the waters. If I was in a position to harm Person X for my own benefit, and did so….clearly that’s wrong. That’s not love.

But what if it’s not for myself? If I’m in a position to benefit my client – even if it harms Person X – and fail to do so….am I then loving my client? Even if that leaves my client in the lurch? In failing in my duty as a lawyer – which is surely what my professor would say I was doing if I didn’t take this action to benefit my client – am I failing in my calling as a Christian? As a Christian, I should sacrifice my own interests rather than harm Person X. But what right have I to sacrifice my client’s interests for the sake of Person X?

Where does love fit into this picture? This is my dilemma.

The Engagement Coincidence Zone

Welcome to The Engagement Coincidence Zone. The Twilight Zone has nothing on Duke Law.

My reader/readers knows/know I'm engaged to the lovely and talented Christy Resnick. It's not a stretch to say y'all know my name is Ben. Well, funny thing. Another guy at the law school named Ben recently got engaged. Not too weird, you say? True, Ben is a common name. But then there's this tidbit: his fiancee is also named Christy.

It doesn't end there.

Y'all may or may not know that the engagement ring I gave Christy (the Christy I'm engaged to...not the Christy that Ben is engaged to......oh, never mind) originally belonged to my grandmother. It's a family ring. I liked the symbolism of passing on the memories of one happy marriage into another and of making her part of my family. Anyways, another Duke Law student named Elisabeth recently got engaged. She has quite the fancy ring, with 3 diamonds....from her fiance's grandma's ring!

[cue Twilight Zone music] At least it's all happy weirdness.

Well, I'm off to get my butt kicked by my first day of classes. Toodles!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Interviewing Hell

No, I'm not talking about giving Hell an interview. That makes no sense, silly.

Interviews aren't going too well. Today, I interviewed with the D.C. Public Defender Service. These guys are so awesome. Premier public defender in the nation. Innovative programs to address clients' rights in prison or to help them deal with civil legal issues. Decent pay, especially for a public defender. Manageable case-load.

And I blew it. ALL my experience is in criminal defense, and I still blew it. I was asked one of those "thinking on your feet" questions: I meet a client and realize this is the same client I am representing in another case, under a different name. If the judge and prosecutor know about that other case, there's no way they are letting him out of jail on bond. What do I do?

I have an answer in my head: As an attorney it is my responsibility to look out for my client's best interest. As long as there is no ethical rule mandating that I tell the judge about my client's alter ego, the real issue is what is in my client's best interest. I would argue full disclosure (in this case) is in his best interest, long-term. If I am to plea bargain (which is what happens with most cases) or get the case against him dropped through some pre-trial diversion program, I need the judge and the D.A. to trust me. Of course, I should respect my client's dignity. If I cannot persuade him to tell the judge about his alter ego, I think it would be a betrayal of my client to "rat him out." Again, this is assuming there are no ethical rules requiring disclosure.

Obviously, there's no "right answer" to this question. The interviewer asked to see how I would think...how I would handle it. He even played the role of the client, demanding to get out of jail now because he's got a job and has to feed the kids.

And how did I handle it? I froze. For what seems like an eternity, I said nothing.

Doggone it! I'm better at thinking on my feet than that! Aren't I? I wanted this job so bad.

I need to back up a bit here. I will find a job, somewhere. I will end up where God can best use me. I need to pray constantly and remind myself of that.

But I'm still kicking myself.

In other interview news, the firm that I'm interviewing with this afternoon.....I just found out that their Atlanta office only has 3 attorneys. And they all are in the Life Sciences division. They all have technical backgrounds. One was a Registered Nurse for 14 years. Think I can convince them to hire me based on my math/science concentration in high school?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Four Brothers: Better Than I Thought It Would Be

[After a drought of blogging, this is my 3rd today. A sign I am probably not preparing for my interviews enough.]

I went to see Four Brothers, not expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised.

It's about 4 guys (Mark Wahlberg, Andre Benjamin of Outkast, Tyrese Gibson, and some guy named Garret Hedlund) who were raised by a sweet old foster mom and return to town after she is shot in cold blood. After some time of grieving, the "brothers" get to work finding the killers.

I was expecting a rather straightforward revenge flick, and that's mostly what it was. But the film had all sorts of nice touches. The rapport between the "brothers" - excluding a few cheesy scenes at the beginning - is realistic and touching. The best non-action scenes in the film were simply scenes of these four guys interacting. Best use of the phrase "rug burn" I've ever heard.

I loved the way minor characters, like the bad guy's henchmen, were given some sort of personality. I liked the ingenuity with which the bad guy did the typical humiliation of underlings. I liked a few plot twists that took even me by surprise.....I mean, some I saw from a mile away (one character walked into a scene and I thought.... "oh, he looks so killable right now"...I was right)....but some I didn't see coming.

And there was a kick-ass car chase. Car-chases are the oldest cliche of movies and they are rarely interesting. This one is.

Don't get me wrong.....Four Brothers isn't a masterpiece. It's not even the best movie of the late summer. (A title I'd give to Hustle and Flow, which also had Terrence Howard in it.) But it's still rather good.

Ben Acting Like An Idiot In Interviews

So, due to construction in the law school building, thee On-Campus Interviews are a bit of a misnomer this year. We are actually doing interviews in the Millennium Hotel.

So, I had a 10:50 interview yesterday. I left for it about 10:30....cutting it close. I arrived at the Hotel and looked for the interview room. Room 429. There WAS no room 429. There was a 420-428 and 430-439, but no 429. Concerned (since my interview was in 2 minutes) I went to the lobby and talked to the concierge.

The guy had been working there for 2 weeks. First thing he did was helpfully take me back up to the 4th floor and confirm that, yep, there was no room 429. Then we went back to the front desk and they tried to look up the room for the guy who was interviewing me.

Then, and only then, 2 minutes after the interview was supposed to have started, did I realize that I was not, in fact, at the Millennium Hotel. I had driven to the Washington and Duke Inn. I WENT TO THE WRONG FREAKIN' HOTEL!

So, I broke every traffic law in the State of North Carolina to race to the Millennium Hotel for my interview and arrived 10 minutes late for a 20 minute interview.

The good news is the guy was willing to do a phone interview at some future point. So all hope is not lost.

The bad news is I'm an idiot.

[Note to any potential employers that may somehow find this blog. That's hyperbole. Actually, I'm a genius. Don't take my word for it. Hire me and find out for yourself.]

America Acting Like A Bully In A School Yard

Hypocrisy at work in the Bush Administration. Again:

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, Aug. 18 - Three years ago the Bush administration began prodding countries to shield Americans from the fledgling International Criminal Court in The Hague, which was intended to be the first permanent tribunal for prosecuting crimes like genocide.
The United States has since cut aid to some two dozen nations that refused to sign immunity agreements that American officials say are intended to protect American soldiers and policy makers from politically motivated prosecutions.
To the Bush administration, the aid cuts are the price paid for refusing to offer support in an area where it views the United States, with its military might stretched across the globe, as being uniquely vulnerable.
But particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, home to 12 nations that have been penalized, the cuts are generating strong resentment at what many see as heavy-handed diplomacy, officials and diplomats in seven countries said.
More than that, some Americans are also beginning to question the policy, as political and military leaders in the region complain that the aid cuts are squandering good will and hurting their ability to cooperate in other important areas, like the campaigns against drugs and terrorism.

See, cuz we only believe in the rule of law when it benefits us. When we encounter a court made to fight genocide and think that it could hold Americans responsible....well, golly rule of law is no good then. Better we push around our neighbors to the South. Of course, as the article explains, we don't do the same to Western European countries like Germany, which have also refused to sing our immunity agreement. We only punish countries we can push around.

Schoolyard bully ethic at work. What, if an American general was sent before a court, would we call the nation that sent them a "tattle-tale"?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Christians Acting Like Christians Should, Part 2

It's an epidemic! I keep hearing more and more about Christians making a stand for human rights and love....and against war and oppression. This time, even conservative Christians are getting involved, including getting their youth involved, in pressing the issue of human rights in North Korea.

I can't tell you how excited I am about all the news I've heard lately. Go God!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Churches Acting Like Christians Should

Go Presbyterian Church U.S.A! Go United Church of Christ! Go Episcopal Church U.S.A.! These and other denominations are using the power of the dollar to kick some warmonger corporate butt!

These churches are threatening to divest money from their pension fund from certain corporations if those corporations do not stop providing the weapons and technology that enable the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory....as well as from banks that ignore how their institutions are being used as money laundering tools for Palestinian terrorists.

It's about darn time churches started acting like Christians are supposed to act: being peace-makers! Sure, somebody out there is going to call this anti-Semitic because it's against Israel's wishes (or against the wishes of that extremist sector of Israel and its allies that believe Israel can do no wrong...even when it does wrong).

I'm just so thrilled at the thought that some churches are taking hard-line actions against the enablers of death.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Revolution Won't Be Televised...It Will Be Blogged

The N.Y. Times has an interesting editorial on the growth of blogs. It seems only right that I post it in its entirety:

Earlier this week, Technorati, a Web site that indexes blogs, released its semiannual "State of the Blogosphere" report. It records a steady, and astonishing, growth. Nearly 80,000 new blogs are created every day, and there are some 14.2 million in existence already, 55 percent of which remain active. Some 900,000 new blog postings are added every day - a steady increase marked by extraordinary spikes in new postings after incidents like the London bombing. The blogosphere - that is, the virtual realm of blogdom as a whole - doubles in size every five and a half months.

If the blogosphere continues to expand at this rate, every person who has Internet access will be a blogger before long, if not an actual reader of blogs. The conventional media - this very newspaper, for instance - have often discussed the growing impact of blogging on the coverage of news. Perhaps the strongest indicator of the importance of blogdom isn't those discussions themselves, but the extent to which media outlets are creating blogs - or bloglike manifestations - of their own.

That is the serious side of the blogosphere. But blogs are often just a way of making oneself appear on the Internet. It's like a closed-circuit video camera that catches a glimpse of you walking by an electronics store window filled with televisions. There you are in all your glory, suddenly, if not forever, mediated. Starting your own blog used to require a certain amount of technical expertise. Now you can do it from within popular Web portals like MSN and AOL, using tools that make it almost as easy as sending e-mail. These days, a surprising number of people write home by posting to their blogs - that is, by writing to everyone on earth.

It's natural enough to think of the growth of the blogosphere as a merely technical phenomenon. But it's also a profoundly human phenomenon, a way of expanding and, in some sense, reifying the ephemeral daily conversation that humans engage in. Every day the blogosphere captures a little more of the strange immediacy of the life that is passing before us. Think of it as the global thought bubble of a single voluble species.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Torture: I Report, You Decide

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin on the methods of "aggressive interrogation" used in the War on Terror and the War in Iraq:

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

Vice-President Dick Cheney, in a representative Republican response:

I thought Durbin was totally out of line. For him to make those comparisons was one of the more egregious things I'd ever heard uttered on the floor of the United States Senate. ... It was so far over the top that I'm just appalled that anybody who serves in the United States Senate would even think those thoughts.... [The terrorist detainees] are well-housed. They're well-fed. Their religious needs and desires are catered to. They're not being tortured or mistreated, but they are a major source of intelligence for us. Plus, we need to keep them off the streets.

And, finally, today's Washington Post:

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.
It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.

I report, you decide.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Beware The Federalist Society....But Don't Run Screaming

The New York Times has an article about The Federalist Society which I find a tad amusing and misguided.

For those of you who don't know, the Federalist Society is a loose collection of conservative lawyers and law students. It holds debates on legal issues, sends people to the media to represent the conservative legal view, and serves as a networking tool for conservative true believers.

The recent media coverage of the Federalists (no relation to the party of Alexander Hamilton) and whether or not soon-to-be Justice John Roberts was a member (answer: he didn't pay the dues, but he did serve on its steering committee) has been overblown. It has treated the Society as some sort of secret cabal, doing backroom deals in the halls of power to complete their conspiracy to destroy the Constitution. The Federalists even hired the same public relations firm as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (a.k.a. the people who lied about John Kerry's war record). Oh, the horror!

Such guilt-by-association gets us nowhere. Two of my dearest law school friends, Chris Raab and David Jetter, are leaders in Duke's chapter of the Federalist Society. Now, I'm not the most observant person in the world, but I haven't seen Chris and David engaging in any secret handshakes or maniacal laughter. They are simply nice guys who happen to totally disagree with me on most legal issues. In other words, I'd take a bullet for them, but I wouldn't vote for them.

The truth of the Federalist Society is much more mundane than many uninformed liberals will lead you to believe....and much more dangerous. The true threat of the Federalists lies in their efficiency at networking and putting the most hardcore, scary conservatives on the fast track to power.

Conservatives in power know they can turn to the Federalist Society to find "pure" conservatives to appoint to judgeships and similar positions of power. That's why fully one-quarter of Bush's judicial nominees were recommended by Federalist Society leaders. You can bet that John Roberts and any other nominee with the Federalist Society's support will be fully vetted and given the conservative stamp of approval. No more David Souters for these guys! (Souter was a Reagan appointee who, like Roberts, had a small record. Souter turned out to be a moderate liberal. The Federalists will ensure that Roberts is not another Souter.)

And make no mistake, the Federalists have been successful. Ken Starr was a member of the Federalist Society. So was Ted Olson, who successfully argued Bush v. Gore and then was appointed Solicitor General. So were 15 of the 41 appeals court judges confirmed under Bush.

This is bad. Liberals are nowhere near as organized or disciplined.

No, the Federalist Society does not take stands on issues as an organization. It doesn't have to. And it doesn't have to be the evil, conspiratorial organization portrayed by liberals. It just has to keep doing what it is doing....networking in broad daylight and recommending/promoting the people who will interpret freedom and justice right out of the Constitution.