Friday, March 30, 2007


I hung out with Stiffler from American Pie tonight.

Ok, maybe we didn't hang out. But he was at the same bar that I was at. It was my first official actor sighting down in the village in the two years that I've gone to school there, but that's mostly because I'm not very good at recognizing actors. I didn't even know what Stiffler's real name is. (Sean William Scott in case you're interested). And I think his girlfriend was with him, supermodel Deanna Miller. But I'm not positive because she was wearing a low hanging hat and didn't look thrilled at being out. Funny how I noticed them but they didn't notice me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Todo Sobre La Madre (All About the Mother)

Yesterday afternoon I told a 14 year old girl that her father wasn’t coming back home that night.

The girl’s mother, “Mrs. A” and I had just secured a court order of protection in Queens Family Court preventing her father from entering the family’s home or from having any contact with the family going forward. As we stood outside of the courtroom, Mrs. A turned to me and asked me to tell her daughter what had just happened.

Yesterday was the first time for both me and the family to set foot in the courthouse. My role, along with several other law students from the New York area, was to serve as an advocate for women applying for orders of protection against their “intimate partners” (defined as husbands or boyfriends, if they share a child together). This meant interviewing my client in order to detail the reasons behind her application; preparing and submitting the petition for the order of protection; and appearing alongside my client in front of the judge to ensure the proper order of protection was granted and that her interests were adequately heard.

When I met Mrs. A this morning she appeared to be an even-keeled middle-aged Hispanic woman who was dressed well, but not lavishly, and who spoke English as if she had lived here for a long time. Her story came out during the course of our interview and was essentially as follows: Mrs. A used to run a cleaning business but was forced to stop after suffering a leg injury several years ago. Since then, she has become a full-time house mother, taking care of a two year-old son and the aforementioned 14 year old daughter. In the meantime, Mr. A works as a building superintendent in Manhattan, though he has been fired from several buildings because of his temper, and he also took over running the business, which Mrs. A believes is now down to one client. Mrs. A has no idea how much her husband makes, and all funds and purchases, including Mrs. A’s pocket money, are controlled directly by him.

While Mr. A has been physically and verbally abusive to Mrs. A during the entire course of her 15 year marriage, only several incidents were filed with the police prior to yesterday’s incident. Two of those incidents included a physical assault eight years ago, after which Mrs. A declined to press charges, and another incident in which Mr. A pulled over on a highway in Queens and tried choking his wife until she and her daughter got out of the car in the middle of the highway and made their own way home. (Mr. A is the father of both of the children).

The “straw that broke the camel’s back” so to speak took place Sunday, when Mrs. A called the police to intervene against her husband, after he turned a morning discussion on their daughter’s spring break plans into a heated shouting match that involved a steady stream of verbal invective against Mrs. A and a threat to cut her off entirely from any money. The police advised Mrs. A to come to court yesterday and this time, she decided to act on their advice. Why this time instead of previously? Most likely, Mrs. A was spurred to take action because her daughter has increasingly been on the receiving end of Mr. A’s violent hands, though Mrs. A was doing her best to literally put herself in the way whenever he threatened their daughter. Three weeks ago, the daughter ran away from home to the school guidance counselor because of this situation. (statement of the obvious: people usually run away from school, not to school).

After we filled out her petition for an order of protection, Mrs. A went to pick up her son and daughter from school and then returned with them to the courthouse. Neither of them knew the specifics of why they were there, though the daughter had some peripheral understanding that it had to do with her father. While we were waiting to be called by the judge I had a chance to speak with her, and it was clear she had very mixed feelings about what was right and who’s side she should be on – her mother’s or her father’s.

During the wait I also had the opportunity to speak with and hear the stories of other people who had come in to court yesterday. One woman, who was clearly among the most wealthy of the people in attendance, told me with a smile that she was there to teach her husband a lesson. Among other things he controlled all the money in the household and wouldn’t let her have any pocket money; he insulted her on a continuous basis; and, most recently, he switched the shampoo in her shampoo bottles with a mixture of ammonia and turpentine (she realized this before she put it in her hair but it caused significant blistering on her hands that she showed me). It didn't appear that this woman wanted her husband gone permanently, just long enough to teach him how to behave properly. Another woman who came to court yesterday morning was in the midst of messy divorce proceedings with her husband that had been dragging out since she first came to court to get an order of protection against him 18 months ago. The woman needed an order of protection after he chased her with a meat cleaver (but wasn’t able to catch her because he was too obese) and after he jumped on her knee repeatedly, causing it to break and putting her on long-term disability.

After a couple of hours of waiting, Mrs. A was called before the judge and she and I were both sworn in. In a span of no more than two minutes, the judge reviewed the petition, confirmed that the statements contained therein were true, and granted the order forcing Mr. A to leave the house. Based on my recommendation, the judge also granted Mrs. A $200/week in child support since she has no other source of income.

And with that, we walked outside. There was no Peoples’ Court reporter waiting to interview us in the hallway; only Mrs. A’s daughter and son who didn’t really have an idea what was in store for them. When I broke the news, the daughter simply bottled up and looked ready to leave. While she acknowledged that the situation at home was untenable, she also justified her father hitting her by saying that he only does it when she acts up. Both Mrs. A and I emphasized that nothing justifies the hitting.

I spoke with Mrs. A this morning, and after several attempts by the police last night, Mr. A was served with the order of protection and left the house. The A couple is due in court on Friday in order to provide Mr. A with an opportunity to respond to the order of protection and to seek court supervised visitation rights with his children. No doubt, the road to the stable and quiet family life Mrs. A seeks for her children will be a long one, and will wind its way through Queens Family Court, through the divorce proceedings that she intends to initiate, and lastly, through the struggle to obtain the income necessary to support her children. As countless statistics bear out, this road is one that's been paved by many women before Mrs. A, and will continue to be traveled afterwards. I only hope that the children being brought along for the ride manage to stay on until they reach the rainbow that's shimmering in the distance.

Monday, March 19, 2007

There's No "I" In You

Why do people always refer to "you" when they really mean "I"? I keep thinking people are actually talking about me, and it's really confusing.

Here's a small sampling of quotes I came up with from reading the paper the last couple of days:

"One advantage you have in not ... having this as lifelong ambition is that if it turns out that your calculation is wrong, it's not the end of the world."
- Fred Thompson when discussing his potential run for President

"When you get to March every year and you aren't in the tournament, you can lose confidence in yourself."
- Seth Greenberg, coach of Va. Tech about the NCAA tournament

"But after you win a championship, I think it changes you a little bit and that's what you really focus on . . . we're doing the right things, but it's way too early to get too excited."
- Jimmie Johnson talking about his NASCAR season

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Be All That You Can Be

One of the questions I often ask myself is whether I should have joined the army. Ultimately, I always come up with the same answer: that no matter how much my sense of duty pulls me to sign up for military service, my heart and mind cannot answer that call.

I first gave some thought to the military when I explored joining the Army Reserves out of high school as a way to help pay for my college education. Instead however, I opted to spend a year in Israel before matriculating into college. My decision was based partly on the fact that a year in Israel sounded a whole lot more fun than going through military training and partly on the fact that my hearing loss in one ear meant I was destined for a desk job.

Nevertheless, every so often I revisit my decision and contemplate the idea of joining the army. I thought about it, for example, when I read a column in the Wall Street Journal by a WSJ correspondent who had decided to put his journalism career on hold at the age of 32 in order to join the U.S. Marines. And I thought about it again a little more than a week ago as I was traveling down to DC when I overheard a woman saying to her neighbor that she only dates military men (active or former, I believe) because she has so much respect for the military. (Mind you, and with all due respect, I wouldn't join the military just so I could get myself on this woman's eligible dating list).

I strongly believe in the value of military service. I believe in it because of the loyalty to one's country and to one's fellow soldiers that military service encourages; because it would be a means of expressing thanks to this country for providing a freedom and wealth of opportunity that my famiy saw taken away from them in World War II Europe; and because of the sense of adventure that, at least conceptually, the military offers. Besides the positive aspects of joining the military, another part of me is motivated to sign up becuase of a guilt complex: How can I stand by while an army composed primarily of lower income individuals, many of whom see the army primarily as an opportunity for upward mobility, protect the democratic values of our country which directly benefit me; while individuals from higher socio-economic classes (myself included in this category), offer no individual sacrifices yet make the actual decisions to go to war.

Ultimately, my career path is not the main obstacle in the way of joining the army. (Though I'm sure my mother wouldn't be too happy if I left law school to enlist.) I can't join for two reasons: The first is that I seriously object to the war we are presently fighting in Iraq. Had I been in the military when the war first started I would have gone, at least on a first tour, without dissent. However, I cannot now, in good conscience, join a force that is fighting a war we entered on false pretenses and which has led to the unnecessary sacrifice of too many lives on both sides of the rifle barrel. Nor can I ignore the fact that I have the luxury to decide whether or not to join a war, when so many people of my parents' generation were forced to fight against their wishes.

The second reason I can't join the military is because of its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. I thought about applying for the JAG corps (the legal arm of the army), when they came to my law school to recruit; however, could not bring myself to cross the protest line that our school held to challenge the policy. Even though the policy wouldn't affect me, the DADT mantra that the military abides by wrongly discriminates against an entire class of individuals. I'm not naive enough to think that no other profession perpetuates discrimination against certain individuals, however, the army's discrimination is unique in how blatant and widespread it is and in the fact that it is endorsed by the government.

Even without the army, I believe it's possible to "Be All That I Can Be" (though no commercials will advertise to tell me that). This is especially true because since I'm not in the army I can decide what I stand for and who I want to be on my own terms.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

My clock is ticking...

I ain't feeling whatever psycho-kinetic energy fields (or should I say "oil fields"?) President Bush was digging when he decided to end Daylight Savings Time three weeks early. However, if Bush is so intent on advancing time ahead of schedule, maybe he can also hold early elections. That would definitely get me ticking and would save a whole lot more oil.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It's Never Too Early

Though no candidate has approached me for their endorsement just yet, as the recent rush of nomination announcements, speeches and posturing has demonstrated, it’s never too early to start talking about the presidential race, even though the election is still 20 months away. Here’s my take on the candidates so far:

Hillary – Right now I think Hillary has the potential to be the superior candidate, but first she’s going to have to weather some political storms brewing on the front end of things. She’s an astute politician, a good talker, and I would love to see Bill as the first husband. One huge downside to her candidacy however, is the fact that it fuels the impression that America is being run by a dynasty of political powerful families, instead of the open democracy that we like to envision ourselves as.
Greatest strength: her reputation as an independently successful female Senator
Greatest weakness: She suffers from the Kerry syndrome: She flip flops on issues, instead of taking a defined position and sticking to it.

Obama – If nothing else, Obama is a breath of fresh air into the race. He’s not afraid to be candid, he generally (but not always) thinks before he speaks, and he doesn’t wear ties to most public engagements. On the other hand, his inexperience is a huge target for Republicans to shoot at, and he's already faced bumps in the road that can be directly attributed to his inexperience at facing a withering spotlight. Though unlikely to be supported by mainstream America, the idea of a Hillary-Obama ticket sends shivers down my spine.
Greatest strength: He passes the likeabilty test with flying colors
Greatest weakness: Inexperience

John Edwards - Nice to see that he's running. Unfortunately, he's a guy who simply picked the wrong year to run. He's a strong candidate, likeable and intelligent. But, he's going to have a really hard time overcoming the Clinton-Obama mountain standing in front of him. Frankly, the "Two Americas" speech isn't going to get him very far this time around.
Greatest strength: Presents a good comprehensive picture and he has an awesome wife.
Greatest weakness: He's not Hillary or Obama.

I might address them later on, but right now all the other Democratic candidates are facing too big of an uphill battle to warrant much consideration...

Best candidate not in the race: Al Gore. It won’t happen I know, but he’s done an amazing job at reviving his public career and at relaxing a little since he lost in 2000.

John McCain – I’ve spent most of the last four years thinking McCain was a shoo-in for the Republican nomination. I’m not so sure about that anymore however. McCain only works if he can be the maverick candidate he used to be. However, he’s pigeon- holed himself by his vocal support of the Iraq war and because of his relatively conservative stance on social issues. Campaign finance isn’t going to carry him through the election like it almost did 8 years ago.
Greatest strength: He's been the presumptive candidate for 4 years
Greatest weakness: His unbending support for the Iraq war and his precarious health

Guiliani – I’m pretty surprised that Guiliani appears to have established a political network outside of the New York area, and that he’s the leading candidate right now for the nomination. I expect, however, that momentum is going to swing away from him as all the skeletons he’s hiding in his closet come out. Before 9/11, Guiliani was known for cleaning up New York, but also for being an extremely polarizing force between African Americans and the city. In case you don't remember, he also tried to postpone city elecdtions after 9/11 as a way of extending his tenure. Politicians could have a field day by comparing that suggestion to ones that undemocratic dictatorships take. Though a lot of people may not remember this (yet) he never got out of the gate as a potential Senatorial candidate against....Hillary.
Greatest strength: 9/11 was his shining moment
Greatest weakness: The cargo ship full of political baggage he's tugging behind him

Mitt Romney – If Mitt can continue his campaign without appearing too shifty on issues concerning his previously liberal social stances, then I think his campaign is going to start taking some of the momentum away form the Guiliani campaign. In fact, Romney might wind up being the spoiler to the Guiliani campaign. The fact that he probably won't carry his own state (Massachusetts) in the general election isn't too much to get caught up on - at least not yet, but any state that a candidate can get as a freebie always strengthens his or her credentials.
Greatest strength: His name is perfect for slogans. ("Romney fits this country like a Mitt.") He also happens to be a good middle-of-the road alternative candidate to Guiliani and McCain.
Greatest weakness: The country might be ready for an African American president or for a female president, but that doesn't mean it's ready for a Mormon.

Best candidate not in the race: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Friday, March 02, 2007

Beware the Ides of March

Things to beware of between now and the 15th of March:

-John McCain might finally decide to formally announce the fact that he’s running for President (or did he already?)

-All of Anna Nicole Smith’s boyfriends will die suddenly from unknown causes, none of them having to do with the significant amount of drugs and sex they ingested while in Anna Nicole’s company.

-Global warming will cause March showers which will bring April flowers which will leave May to simply be the superfluous month that we thought February was.

-Alan Greenspan will forget that he’s no longer head of the Fed and announce that this country has officially entered a recession, at which point the Bush administration will take him to a secret CIA jail in some unknown European country (most likely Italy) and torture him until he takes his words back.

-Iraq will enter into a civil war;
-The Palestinians will enter into a civil war;
-The Lebanese will enter into a civil war;
-Texas will secede from the Union and start a civil war so the U.S. doesn't get lonely.

-We’ll find out that the Oscar telecast we thought ended after 4 hours on Sunday night is actually still running.

-John McCain will decide to postpone his formal announcement until April.