Graduation doesn’t mean $%&# (but it’s still good to be done)

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m done with law school, but I just found out that I can say that with even more certainty than I previously thought. See, there was the tiniest chance that maybe I didn’t get a good enough grade in one class for it to count toward graduation. I admit it: I slacked a lot in that class, found it hard to pay attention, was disappointed in the class generally, and barely studied, all of which made me less than confident about how the grade would turn out. However, all of my grades are now in and all of them will definitely count! GW’s J.D. graduation requirements say that a student must complete “84 credit hours, 63 of which must have been taken for a letter grade.” My final (although still unofficial) transcript says:

Finalcredits2-1

And with that, it’s hard for me to think of anything that will make this graduation thing not happen. (((“GPA Hours” in that table mean hours taken for a letter grade—I needed 63 and ended up w/64 so I’m golden.)) I guess it’s not officially official until I have a diploma in my hand, but that should just be a matter of time. ((Even with diploma in hand my mind keeps coming up w/tiny nightmares in which somehow I haven’t really finished and will be dragged back to D.C. for some final hoop jumping. It’s like Agent Smith’s lecture to Morpheus about the tendency for humans to require problems:

Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from.

I’m sure I could string out the comparison, but I’ll leave it that.))

Of course, as Audacity so kindly points out, graduation “doesn’t mean shit until you’ve passed the bar exam.” Don’t I know it! That’s one of the main reasons I’m not participating in or attending any graduation hoopla—it all seems a little premature and pointless when a J.D. is next to worthless w/out admission to the bar. ((Unless, of course, you want to teach or otherwise never intended to practice law. But besides teaching, what other things can you do w/a J.D. w/out being admitted to the bar?))

With that in mind, Audacity offers some tips for preparing for the bar, and there are a few more on Blawg Wisdom. I imagine it seems a little early for most people to get started on bar study in earnest, ((Sadly, some people (like Energy Spatula) still aren’t finished with law school yet.)) but those links will definitely come in handy in a couple of weeks when noses get seriously down to the bar prep grindstone. [tags]graduation, advice[/tags]

How can this be just?

Over at Arbitrary and Capricious Skelly recently pointed to a decision by U.S. District Judge Charles Pyle that said that counties in Arizona did not have to give prosecutors and court-appointed defense attorneys equal pay because prosecutors and defense attorneys are not “similarly situated.” From the news article on the decision:

Pyle noted the county’s attorneys argued that prosecutors and defense attorneys not only do different work, but the county has a “legitimate interest in favoring the public’s interest in vigorously prosecuting crime over the county’s duty to provide indigent criminal defense, and that paying prosecutors more than public defenders is rationally related to that interest.”

“Although the argument is an uncomfortable one,” Pyle concluded, it is a rational one.

Poor criminal defendants weren’t entitled to court-appointed attorneys prior to 1963, and even now they are entitled to get only “reasonably effective” representation, Pyle said. As a result, government entities “could legitimately conclude that its law enforcement obligations are of a greater priority than its obligations to provide ‘effective’ assistance of counsel to indigent public defendants.”

So there you have it, folks. A federal judge saying that it’s legal for a unit of government (albeit a small one) to ensure that the scales of justice will never balance in its criminal courtrooms. Of course, just because the court-appointed defense attorneys aren’t getting paid as much as their counterparts on the prosecution doesn’t mean they won’t work just as hard or harder and maybe even do a better job than the prosecution. But unequal — lower — pay definitely puts the defense at a disadvantage and it’s hard to see how that’s fair or just, or even “rational,” for that matter. What’s rational about stacking the deck toward locking people up? Isn’t it more rational to take a simple step like equal pay to increase the odds that only those who are truly guilty get punished?

On the bright side, blogger “ACS” (who blogs at Defending Those People) left the following series of great quotations from legal luminaries suggesting that the Honorable Judge Pyle is just plain wrong. Some or all of these may soon make it into the “today’s tagline” rotation here at the imbroglio.

“There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.”
— U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, Griffin v. Illinois, 373 U.S. 12 (1964).

“If the motto ‘and justice for all’ becomes ‘and justice for those who can afford it’, we threaten the very underpinnings of our social contract.”
— Chief Justice Ronald George California Supreme Court, Annual “State of Judiciary” Speech, 2001

“Equal justice under law is not just a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building. It is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society . . . It is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.”
— U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr.

“Equality before the law in a true democracy is a matter of right. It cannot be a matter of charity or of favor or of grace or of discretion.”
— U.S. Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge, Speech to American Bar Association, September 29, 1941

“The real practical blessing of our Bill of Rights is in its provision for fixed procedure securing a fair hearing by independent courts to each individual…But if the individual in seeking to protect himself is without money to avail himself of such procedure, the Constitution and the procedure made inviolable by it do not practically work for the equal benefit of all. Something must be devised by which everyone, however lowly and however poor, however unable by his means to employ a lawyer and pay court costs, shall be furnished the opportunity to set fixed machinery of justice going.”
— William Howard Taft Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, Preface to Smith and Bradway, LEGAL AID WORK IN THE UNITED STATES (1926) [tags]public defender, prosecution, 3rd circuit, motivation, access to justice[/tags]

NSAT&TBC

Nsattbc-2There was a great bit on Bill Maher’s “Get Real” this week—a mock commercial for our new communications/surveillance industry. In the ad the voiceover explains everything:

AT&T and SBC have merged . . . with the NSA! To form the new NSAT&TBC! Making your calls crystal clear. We have to—we’re recording them. The new NSAT&TBC: Never further away than the van outside your house.

Dark humor lives! ((This was apparently the opening sketch from 03/24/06, so you can go watch it if you’d like.))

In a similar vein, here’s another reminder that the truth is stranger (and scarier) than fiction: President Bush to Replace the Verizon Guy.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President George W. Bush and Verizon Wireless are expected to announce at a joint news conference today that the president will take the place of Paul Marcarelli, the long-time advertising face of Verizon, in a new series of commercials.

The company is also expected to announce that it is changing its much-parodied slogan from “Can you hear me now?” to “We Can Hear You Now.”

Wouldn’t that be funny if it weren’t so true?

With these latest revelations of the extent of domestic spying I’m starting to wonder if we’ve just barely scratched the surface. How many other ways is the government monitoring us? ((Legally or otherwise…)) A “flash” poll shows that 66% of those polled would not be bothered at all if they “found out that the NSA had a record of phone numbers that [they themselves] have called.” ((This poll has been widely criticized as poorly worded and skewed toward encouraging people to support the spying.)) If that poll holds up, the Bush administration will have almost certainly won this battle. The big question then becomes: Is there any line we not allow this administration to cross? Their highly successful strategy thus far seems to be:

We do whatever we want, say it’s for the safety of the American people, and dare anyone to say we shouldn’t be doing everything we can to protect U.S. citizens from terrorists. Then we tell The American People&8482; that they know that if what we’ve done was illegal, the law should be changed. This way we get to do what we want, the law be damned. It’s working great!

Remember: They can hear you now. ((See also: The Show w/Ze Frank from 05-12-06 for some excellent (and funny!) commentary on the whole NSA domestic spying imbroglio.)) [tags]NSA, terrorism, domestic spying, humor, telecommunications, BA[/tags]

Flights of fancy

I spent a half-hour yesterday morning searching Last Minute Travel and Travelocity Last Minute Deals for a crazy, harebrained escape to . . . anywhere. Why? I don’t know. L.’s brother (who also just finished law school) reports that he’s kind of at loose ends waiting for graduation[1], so I thought, “hey, we should take a trip somewhere.” My first choice was London just because I’ve always wanted to go there. I could spend next week there for a mere $1700 for airfare alone. Cool! If I’d like to spend less than, oh, say $500, my options are pretty much limited to . . . Nashville, TN.
So I won’t be going on any totally unnecessary impulse adventures next week. It was just a thought. I’m still trying to get used to the idea that law school is over and I know I have plenty to do to prepare to move and get ready for the bar exam and find a job. Yeah, plenty to do. And I’m going to do all that, but sometimes it’s nice to give your mind a little breathing room, a little exercise in “what if?” escapism. Thanks to the speed and magic of the internets, such flights of fancy can be quickly grounded in harsh reality[2], but it’s still nice to dream…

fn1. I know the feeling. For the first few days after finishing my last final I was working on this site and just playing around w/things and the free time was great. But there are only so many hours a person can spend goofing around before getting a bit uneasy. Life isn’t supposed to be all play, right?

fn2. My reality is actually not that harsh at the moment. I mean, I have a lot to do, but I’m feeling pretty lucky right now that things are falling into place as well as they are—knock wood. [tags]travel, fantasies[/tags]

Holy Insufficient Postage, Batman!

In a stunning reminder of my own ineptness, I returned home today from an afternoon of museum-visiting and hair-cutting to find a veritable bomb in my mailbox: My application for a job with the Montana Office of the Public Defender was returned to me for insufficient postage—a day after it was “due.”

Let me put that another way: After finishing my last final just over a week ago, I had basically one big thing I had to accomplish last week and I failed to accomplish it. Pretty good start to my “professional” career, wouldn’t you say?

But ok, if we go a little lighter on the melodrama, it’s not that big a deal. As I explain here, the deadline wasn’t hard and fast so my application will definitely still be considered. It’s disappointing and doesn’t make exactly the first impression I was hoping to make, but I don’t think it will have serious impact in the long run. It’s not good, but not awful, either.

Still, I can’t get over the fact that mailing something like six sheets of regular copier paper requires more than two first-class stamps. Lesson for the future: When it’s really important, go to the post office and get it metered. Better yet, send it certified! Sure you pay more, but at least your mail will arrive at its destination and the recipient will know you mean business! [tags]montana, public defender, job search, mail, postage, deadlines[/tags]

We be buyers!

A bright shot of the comfy living room of our new home.The second house we bid on did not get away! As you can see from the picture at right (a view of the living room w/the seller’s furniture), it’s not as grand as the fixer-upper we decided not to bid on, but it’s in tip-top shape, has a huge fenced yard for our dog, includes a garage and a dishwasher, and has more room than we’ve ever lived in, so it has everything we were hoping for. We’ll have an inspection next week and have to get insurance and finalize the financing, but I’m pretty confident we’ll be moving in by mid-June.

It feels a little crazy to be buying a house we’ve never seen, but Mother Imbroglio looked and liked, so that’s reassuring. It’s probably even crazier to be buying a house before I even have a job, but there you go. Besides, L. has a job, so I’m sure we’ll be ok. She said she wanted me to sponge off of her for as long as I wanted. Really. She’s just that sweet. [tags]homebuying, montana, real estate, realtors, L.[/tags]

Testing Feedburner

I’m not very patient. I just did the whole Feedburner thing. This is a test for the new feed…

UPDATE: I can now successfully subscribe to both the main feed and the comments feed in both Bloglines and Yahoo. I hope you can, too! (Please let me know if you can’t so I can continue working on it.) For some reason Google still can’t find the feed.

The (apparently partial) solution for now was to create a Feedburner version of the feeds and just use htaccess to redirect from the WordPress base feeds to the feedburner versions. I still don’t understand at all why this should be necessary, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s got something to do with one of the gazillion plugins I’ve installed in the last week while playing around. I’ve learned that a small number of other people have had similar problems but no one has found a Feedburner-less solution that would work for me, so Feedburner it is. Subscribe away!

I’m not sure things are as fixed as I thought. Although I doubt you, dear reader, are interested in this, I’m just going to document what I’ve done here so I can follow it later if necessary. It seems my htaccess magic created a recursive loop—you “burn” Feed A, then redirect Feed A. So back to the drawing board. The WP instructions for using Feedburner suggested I solve this problem by creating a new RSS feed template and sending that to Feedburner. Instead, I just tried “burning” one of the specific feed URLs (/wp-rss2.php) to see if that would solve the problem. For comments I tried /wp-rsscomments2.php. We’ll see if that works.

At some point I also tried revising the wp-feeds.php file, as instructed here. That’s supposed to redirect people from your default WP feeds to your feedburner feed, but it only seemed to create an empty feed w/no content.

Here’s hoping my slightly revised htaccess solution works.
[tags]feedburner, rss, syndication, bloglines[/tags]

Mysteriously missing WordPress RSS feeds: Help?

So much for the grand plan to create a snazzy new blog that is user-friendly and high-tech. Immediately upon welcoming visitors to the site, Jeremy notified me that my RSS feeds weren’t showing up in Bloglines. Ironically, I’ll bet he learned of the problem so quickly via the RSS feed of ambivalent imbroglio, which seemed to work just fine. Grrr.

After looking into the problem for a bit now, I have to admit I’m flummoxed. NewsFire, my RSS reader of choice, was able to find the feeds just fine. Firefox can also discover the feeds and turn them into “live bookmarks” w/out a problem. But no matter what I try, Bloglines insists there are no feeds at theimbroglio.com. Yahoo and Google Reader say the same thing. Can anyone out there offer any advice for making WordPress feeds work in Bloglines, Yahoo, and other online feed readers?

So far I’ve found the Feeds docs on the WordPress Codex and everything appears as it should be there. I’m using custom permalinks so the feed protocol is:

http://theimbroglio.com/feed/

That’s what works in NewsFire and Firefox. The Customizing Feeds doc explains how to modify the feeds, so I’m wondering if a small change there—possibly in the header—would make the feed more recognizable to more readers. Any ideas?

As you can see if you scroll down to the bottom of the sidebar, I installed the Subscribe Me plugin (see all those “subscribe” butttons?) in the hope that it would solve the problem. Sadly it only makes it easier to see that the feed isn’t working on the major online aggregators.

The Feed Validator can see my feed, although it does find a few errors (all generated by plugins, I think). Could any of those errors be the problem?

At least one other person has had the same problem, but her solution doesn’t seem to work here. I tried all variants in Bloglines; no go.

I have a feeling that if I just signed up w/Feedburner and let it handle my feeds the problem would be solved. Like NewsFire and Firefox, Feedburner can also find the feeds w/no problem. I’m not really wild about that idea, but maybe it’s worth a try…
[tags]aggregators, rss, syndication, wordpress, feedburner, bloglines[/tags]

Will another get away?

The living room of a big fixer-upper we did *not* bid on.So that house I mentioned the other day? It got away. The seller refused to drop below $100k so we let it pass. Good thing, too, because yesterday two more good options popped up on the market. The living room for one of them is pictured at right. Check out the huge size and that beautiful wood trim! And a fireplace! The house has over 2500 square feet! And a fenced yard for our dog and a 3-car garage! And it’s mere blocks from L’s job!

Now I know what you’re thinking: We could never afford a great place like that. But we’re talking Montana, here, where all that and more can be yours for little more than $100k! Now do you understand why we’re moving to Montana?

But, ok. Let me be honest. All of the above is true, but also true is that this house is a major “fixer-upper” that probably needs most of a new kitchen, a major rebuilding of the staircase leading to the second floor, and various other things too numerous to mention. And we don’t even know the condition of the plumbing, electrical system, furnace, roof, or foundation—you know, the important stuff. So that explains why it’s so cheap. But still, it’s pretty tempting. Just look at that living room! The dining room and one bedroom are in about that condition, too. The rest of the house? Another story altogether.

So we didn’t bid on that house. Instead, we bid on another which is almost in the same block. It’s much smaller but it has everything we’re looking for in terms of location, yard, dishwasher (very important!), garage, price, condition, etc. We’re currently waiting to hear if the buyer is going to respond to our offer. But while we were on the edge of our seats all of last weekend because of the anxiety of our first bid, now that we’ve been through it once we’re trying harder to stay relaxed. House hunting is just like going to the mall, only bigger, right?

As for the issue w/the statutory broker v. the buyer’s agent, we solved by simply asking our realtor about it. She explained that she can act in either capacity but had chosen to act as a statutory broker on the first deal b/c we were dealing at a distance and she thought we might prefer that b/c it meant we would not be obligated to use her as our agent if that particular deal fell through. However, for better or worse, we decided to contract w/her as a buyer’s agent (aka, a buyer’s broker) in order to make sure we’ll benefit from the additional obligations such a contract implies.

See all this stuff they don’t teach you in law school?
[tags]homebuying, real estate, montana, realtors[/tags]

The house that got away?

Life is moving pretty fast around here: Just over a week ago I was still in law school and didn’t know where I was going to live starting this June or where I was going to sit for the bar. Then, one week ago today L. got a job in Billings. A couple of days later I finished law school, and just a couple off days later we made an offer on a house!

Talk about stress. The seller was asking $105k, we offered $95k, and immediately wished we’d offered $90k as a starting point. The seller countered at $100k (not really surprising), but since we’d already offered basically what we wanted to pay, we had no room to move. After endless debate and mulling, during which we considered whether to counter the counter at $97.5k, we finally decided to stay w/our original offer. Of course, immediately after making that decision we wished we’d just gone for the $97.5 b/c then the house would be hours (we assume) and all of the stress and uncertainty would be over and we’d have ourselves a nice little home w/in an easy walk to work for both of us (if I get a job, that is). Second-guessing is great!

Now, as we wait for the seller to respond to our unchanged original offer, it seems certain he’s going to tell us to take a hike and we’ll be back to square one. Not cool.

One reason this deal has not gone so well is that we ended up working w/a “statutory broker” instead of a buyer’s real estate agent. We didn’t realize that until we were making the offer, at which point we were too interested to back out and find another agent. But once we learned that our agent has so little obligation to us and is not bound to keep any confidence w/us w/regard to finances, etc., it became pretty difficult to trust her advice as to pricing and what might be a fair offer. Was she telling the seller everything we said about how much we could afford or how high we might be willing to go? Maybe not, but that would probably be in her best interest. Does anyone know how a statutory broker gets paid? Would the broker’s fee depend on the sales price of the home? [tags]montana, homebuying, real estate, realtors[/tags]