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October, 2010:

Everyone Should Vote By Mail

This past Saturday, I stood at my kitchen counter for two hours and worked on my ballot.  There was much to vote on:  governor, representatives, propositions, judges, and the State Mine Inspector just to name a few.   There were very few heated campaigns or hot button issues so I spent a lot of time reading through candidate statements, the pros and cons of the propositions, and the results of the judicial performance review.  I was very grateful to AZ Central for providing information about the candidates for the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.

A voter returns his vote-by-mail ballot in the...
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I have always voted by mail.  When I turned 18 and registered to vote, I lived in Oregon where everyone votes by mail.  They don’t have polling places.  They only have ballot drop boxes.  It’s very convenient.  When I moved to Arizona, I signed up to permanently get my ballot by mail.  I have voted in a polling place once in my life – it was overrated.

While I was working on my ballot, I wondered how many people don’t look at the candidates or the propositions until they go into the voting booth.  Do they just vote along party lines?  What do they do about votes to retain judges or non-partisan races like the water conservation district?  Do they just vote for the names that sound pretty?

One of my favorite voting memories was from the 2000 election.  I was a senior at Oregon State University and a resident assistant in McNary Hall.  I remember sitting on the floor in the hallway with some of my residents working on our ballots because they were due the next day.  Nothing spectacular happened that night but I remember really talking about the candidates and the propositions before making my final choices.

I think every state should be like Oregon and only have voting by mail.  It would force voters be more thoughtful about who and what they are voting for.  It would also give them the ability to do more research on the candidates.  I had some questions while I was working on my ballot and I sent emails to the candidates asking for their position on key issues.

It’s also more convenient to vote from home.  One of my fellow law students is from Oregon.  Like me, she’s a permanent voter by mail too.  We were discussing this issue today and she said that she’s too lazy to go to a polling place.  If she had to go farther than her mailbox to vote, it would be too far.  I don’t think she’s lazy, just efficient.

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No Love from ASU Law School for Current or Future Students

This past week, Elie Mystal of Above the Law wrote a biting and brilliant article about Dean Berman’s announcement that he intended to make the law school at Arizona State University less reliant on state funding.  Berman’s plan went from intriguing to horrifying when he said that he planned to do this by increasing the size of the law school student body and increasing tuition.

Seriously?!?

Mystal was on the right path when he said Berman’s plan would result in more unemployed lawyers with mountains of debt.  What he doesn’t realize is that ASU is already passed the capacity of its current facilities.  Where are they going to put another 30 people?  Furthermore, job prospects for law graduates in Arizona currently suck in this economy.  Is it ethical to flood the market with lawyers who can’t get jobs?

ASU Sign (1)
Image by John M. Quick via Flickr

I can understand Berman’s desire to be less reliant to state funding.  I’m sure some of his plans were derailed when the state budget for education was slashed.  I understand and generally respect the concept that people should pay top dollar for quality products.  However, asking students at a public university to carry this burden is asking too much.  And pissing off future alums by robbing them blind won’t help the school’s fundraising efforts.

In the National Law Journal, Berman said, “We’re expanding the scope of legal education.”  Is he referring to the cubic buttload of clinics, journals, and programs that have been added to the school since he became the dean?  Being a student at ASU Law, it seems like a new program is added every 30 seconds.  It seems like every time someone mentions the idea of starting something new at the school, Berman approves it.  I’ve been wondering where the school was getting the money to pay for all this.  I don’t know where it was coming from but now we know who will be footing the bill in the future – the students!  If the students are paying for everything, the school shouldn’t be expanding.  It should be focusing on doing a few things well – like preparing students to be actual lawyers with real lawyering skills.

Now, I take my fair share of flack for dissing my school while I’m still a student.  I’m not saying everything about it is bad – there are some awesome people at the school.  But from an administrative perspective, the school doesn’t seem to care about its students.  The most glaring proof of this are the decisions that are made to impress and entice potential students, but have limited usefulness to current students.  Have you seen the new website?  How about the new fancy desks that aren’t big enough to comfortably accommodate a laptop?  Or the classroom configurations that are a pain in the ass to navigate?  How many students were consulted before these decisions were made?  One current professor said probably zero.  There’s a lot of flash and sparkle without much utility.

You know what bothers me the most about Berman’s plan?  At a recent town hall meeting, Berman said, “”I never would have come if I knew they were going to privatize the law school.”  I know he said this because, (1) I was there, and (2) I immediately tweeted that quote out to the universe.  (Isn’t technology a bitch?)  If the dean of my law school is a walking contradiction, I’m pissed about how this institution is treating its students and severely concerned for its future.

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National Coming Out Day Rant

October 11th is National Coming Out Day.  In honor of this holiday, I’ll gladly share that I’m bisexual.  I hope that’s not an issue for you.  If it is, you have an issue.

For anyone who doesn’t understand bisexuality, it means I am attracted to both genders.  That doesn’t mean that I’m a slut or that I have to date both men and women to be happy.  It simply means that a person’s gender isn’t a deal-breaker when I’m deciding who I want to date.

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...
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I love holidays in general, but this holiday makes me a little sad because a person’s sexuality is still an ongoing issue.   We have teens committing suicide left and right because of it.  I mean, who cares who someone falls in love with?  I’m all for consenting adults falling in love.  I don’t care what they do behind closed doors.  If you don’t want to watch two people holding hands or kissing in public, don’t look.  I do that all the time with I see people, usually a hetero couple, gratuitously sucking face.

I tend to laugh at homophobic people’s reasons for being homophobic.  The best ones usually come from straight guys who say, “I don’t want some dude hitting on me.”  I generally have two responses for this guy:

  1. What person, gay or straight, is going to be attracted to you and your narrow mind?
  2. You should be flattered that any person is attracted to you.  If you’re secure in who you are, you should be able to handle that person’s advances with class if you do not reciprocate their feelings.

I’m all for the government giving the same rights to any couple.  If the United States is going to give married heteros certain rights, they should give the married homos the same rights.  I don’t care what they call it, whether it’s “marriage” or “civil union,” but they have to use the same term for straight and gay unions.

Given the state of the economy, I’d expect the government to support gay marriage.  Our country will get back on track faster if we’re spending money.  Do you know how much it costs to get married?  There are the clothes, the rings, the flowers, the reception, the travel expenses, and the honeymoon for starters.  And unfortunately, after the wedding, at least half of these couples will eventually get divorces, which includes legal expenses, buying and selling property, and the post-divorce party.  All of this is good for business.

So Happy National Coming Out Day one and all.  To the baby gays out there, I hope your coming out process has been supported by your loved ones, and if it hasn’t, know that support is available.  If other people’s non-heterosexuality is an issue for you, please get over it.  It’s not a big deal.

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Lessons from Grandpa Jim

My grandfather died unexpectedly when I was two.  I have no memories of him.  It’s seems odd that some of the ideas that often run through my head are the lessons that he passed down through his children.

Growing up, I simply accepted that I only had one grandparent on my father’s side of the family.  My grandfather was someone we rarely talked about, but I learned little bits about him over the years:  he was a Marine; he owned a ranch in Phoenix; and his favorite flavor of ice cream was vanilla.  I gathered that he was a fairly stoic man, and according to others, he would have been content to lead a boring life if it wasn’t for my grandmother.

My grandfather was only fifty-seven when he died of a heart attack.  I think it was easier for my family not to talk about him because when they did, they had to relive the pain of losing him.  About ten years ago, I got curious and started asking questions like, “What was grandpa like?”  From that came an outpouring of stories about this man and the lessons he passed on to his children.

  1. Life is Choices. This is probably the simplest and the most profound statements I carry with me.  It is absolutely true that a person’s existence is made up of the choices they make – where to go to school, what profession to enter, who to marry, what to do in frightening situations, etc.  Who I am is what I do and what I do depends on the choices I make.  This even applies to what I think about and where I put my energy.  The best part of this lesson is the fact that in every situation, there is always a choice.  Neither option may be desirable, but there is a choice nonetheless.
  2. Finish Strong. I practiced this lesson this weekend during a 5K race.  By the last quarter mile, I was hot, tired, and wondering why I ever thought running was fun.  Regardless of all this, I still dug deep and finished with as much speed as my legs could produce.  I hear this lesson when I get senioritis with school being almost over and when the end of a project in on the horizon and every fiber of my being wants to slack off.  This is the lesson I draw upon when I have to take a deep breath, ignore all fatigue and distractions, and tackle the task at hand.

When I think about the lessons from my grandfather, I feel like I am carrying part of him with me.  I literally carry a part of him with me too because I carry one of his handkerchiefs most of the time.  It’s comforting to think that I’m not going through the stress and challenge of law school alone, even on the days when I am completely isolated working on homework and projects.

Photo courtesy of the Carter family.