Thursday, October 3, 2013

WTF is going on in Washington?

In much the same spirit as the current shutdown in Washington, the furloughs have given me enough time on my hands to start blogging.  Yeah, it's like that.  And I'm going to keep doing it until I get my way.  It's just that in this case, "getting my way" means letting me go back to work and earning a paycheck.  Until then, I can keep crankin' this stuff out.  You've seen it before. I probably won't like this any more than you do.

So, today's topic is inspired by a friend who asked me to summarize what the heck is going on in Washington right now.  The text of my e-mail to her is copied below:

Okay, so here's the breakdown in a nutshell.

The whole thing starts because we have this thing called the anti-deficiency act.  Basically, it's a very old law, but it says that you can't spend money in the federal government unless it comes from a congressional appropriation.  (There are also some areas that involve "non-appropriated funds" but those aren't what the problem is, now.)

1.  So, basically, you can't obligate money on behalf of the federal government unless congress says you can.

The congress and the president agree on a budget.  That hasn't happened in a while. So, what happens if you can't agree on a budget is you might just agree to pay for things the way you have been, which is called a continuing resolution.  That's how we've been paying for our government for the past several years.  If you can't pass a budget OR agree to a continuing resolution, then congress has not approved a plan to spend money.

2.  Congress has not approved a budget, and they are not agreeing to a continuing resolution.

Why?  Because the republicans in congress don't like the affordable care act.  (Obamacare.)  They have tried, I believe, 40 different times in just the past couple of years to repeal it or repeal parts of it.  Unfortunately, they control the House of Representatives, but they don't control the Senate.  Also, the president can veto laws, and you have to have a supermajority (two-thirds or 67%) if you want to override the presidential veto or if you want to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

These are not the rules just for Obamacare.  These are the rules for every law that has ever been passed in the history of the United States.

Because the republicans have control of the house, but not the Senate, and they are nowhere near a supermajority, they have said they refuse to implement a budget unless the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is delayed.  (The number they throw around is they want it delayed by 1 year.  No doubt, to try and mount some other attempts at defeating it legislatively.)

The president refuses to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

3.  So, because the president won't delay implementation of ACA, the Republicans are refusing to pass a budget.

What's happening now is that non-essential services are just shut down.  The workers (like me) are home without pay.  At some future date, they may, like they did in the past, go back and pay us for our missed work.  However, they may not.  They've done it in the past, but who knows.  Federal workers just got furloughed over the Summer and no, we did not get back-paid for those days.  We just lost them.  That was unprecedented.  So, saying that we will get paid for these days just because it happened in the past is not at all a safe bet.

Essential services, it's even crazier.  Those folks HAVE TO report to work, but they can't be paid.  When congress eventually agrees on a budget, they will be paid, but until that happens, they won't.  Previous shutdowns have gone a month or two at the most.  So, it's not going to be pleasant.  That's a long time for your typical American family with a mortgage to go without any income.

Moderate Republicans (like McCain or Nunes) think this is crazy.  But for the most part, the Tea Party Republicans wield a lot of power.  They're not the majority of Republicans, but when a Republican crosses them, they mount a primary challenge.  (So, when the moderate republican runs for re-election, the tea party sponsors a more extreme Republican instead and keep the moderate republican for running for office in the general election.)  In that way, a small band of pretty extreme folks are able to get the entire Republican party to toe the line.

What the Republicans needed was a message to sell to the people.  They think they found one.  It basically goes, "the president will negotiate with syria and iran, but he won't negotiate with Republicans."

So far, it's working as far as solidifying their position with the Republican base.

Trouble is, it's not really a good argument.  Sort of like I go to a restaurant, I order a bunch of food, I eat it all.  The bill comes and I say, "Unless you give me free dessert, I won't pay the bill."

The restaurant owner says, "What?  No, that's not the way you do things.  You're responsible for this bill.  You need to pay it."

And in response, I tell the owner, "Well... geez, you negotiate with your bread vendor, you negotiate with your wine merchant, but you won't negotiate with me!!!"

The basic idea is that if the Republicans are willing to compromise (in this case by passing a budget... which is their job and isn't a concession at all), the president should be willing to compromise (in this case, by taking a law that was passed and just not doing it.)

Remember, the Republicans in this case have tried on about 40 previous occasions to repeal Obamacare or parts of it.  It didn't work, so they're basically saying that the whole process by which laws are decided didn't work for them.  So, they're going to shut down the entire government because the way the system works didn't go their way.

If you include the original passage of Obamacare and the Supreme Court challenge, they've lost this fight 42 straight times.  So, their position is basically that the system, which works for every other law in this country, needs to be abandoned, and that it's fair to shut down the entire government because government by representative democracy didn't produce a result they like.

What part of the government do these Republicans work in?  The representative democracy part.  The Senate and House are how we pass laws.

It's this attempt to draw equivalency between the two positions that I quibble with.  As a friend of mine said, "If somebody comes to you and says they want to kill your family, you don't negotiate with them to only kill half your family in the spirit of compromise."

If you accept the premise that our elected officials should shut down the entire government every time there's a single law they dislike, (but that they can't change through the democratic process), then I guess the Republican position seems reasonable.

I think it would lead to anarchy.  For instance, the Democrats, after decades of trying and failing to get onerous gun-control legislation, could simply shut down the government unless the President "negotiates" with them on the subject.

People who want school prayer could shut down the government.  People who don't want school prayer could shut down the government.  Basically, anybody in the country who could think of a single law they didn't like could shut down the government.

Trouble is, we have a method by which we change laws.  In fact, the Republicans are pretty familiar with it.  They've used that method 40 times to try and repeal Obamacare.  It's just that sometimes you don't get to get something just because you want it.  There's a process, and when everything was said and done, that process has told the Republicans "no".  40 times.  Then the Supreme Court weighed in and told them "no" one more time.

After that, you need to either try the process a 41st time, or you need to accept that things aren't going to go your way right now and you need to move on.  At least I think most people should accept it.  Or... well... you can hold nutrition for infants hostage.

Meanwhile, to make things even more complicated, the Republicans are floating bills that would fund PARTS of government, but not others.  For instance, one bill would keep national parks open.

The reason they're doing this is that they can then fund the parts of the government they like (like national defense) or parts that are pissing people off (like national parks) and play politics with the parts that republicans don't like (like WIC, meals on wheels and headstart.)

The president is saying no to this piecemeal attempt at funding the government.  He says they need to give him a bill that funds everything or nothing.

Both sides are sorta wrong on that.  It's a normal part of the legislative process to fund the government bit by bit.  Typically we get a budget and 13 separate appropriation bills, and that's how our government is funded.  But I think the president has a valid point:  once the Republicans fund the parts of the government that people care about and which are most visible, they have no incentive to be reasonable on the rest.

On that issue, who is more wrong?  I'm gonna say maybe the president is a little more wrong than the Republicans, but I chalk that whole thing up to the way politics operate.

Shutting down the government because you disagree with one law?  That's not the way politics operate in anything but a banana republic.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The After-Finals Blogpost!

Okay, I won't talk about finals, except to say that this semester, I just didn't do very well at all.  Honestly, most days, this semester, it was all I could do not to end up in a straightjacket in a rubber room.  Nothing to do with Law School, oddly. It was just the rest of the world crashing down around my feet.  Couldn't sleep, couldn't focus, didn't keep up in school.

I know after the Fall Semester that predictions are pointless.  However, I'm going to go out on a limb again.

Legal Research and Writing:  B-
Constitutional Law:  B-
Criminal Law:  C
Contracts:  C-
Property:  C-

Yes, I know that if my prediction comes true, I'd have to repeat Contracts and Property. 

All I can do at this point is pray that my prediction is wrong. 

My LRW appellate brief will be available to pick up tomorrow.  I was going to just wait for it to be posted, but I think I'll jog down to the school and get it just to find out.  May not have a letter grade on it, but will have a raw score that will let me know how close I am to the class mean.

The rest will probably get posted anywhere from a week to a month from now.

It sorta sucks that although Law School was the one part of my life that was under control, and that I really enjoyed (outside of my son), that the rest of the world just absolutely crushed me to the point that it impacted my law school performance. 

I really, really want to come back in the Fall as a 2L.  I've got so much working against me.  Now, thanks to some probably crappy final exam performances, I'll also be looking at academic probation or something. 

So, now, after a pretty good Fall, my law school life is just as much of a mess as the rest of my life.  Will keep everybody posted as grades come up. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

When I See a Little Light

I was whining on Facebook, and a 1L classmate mentioned that Capital University is not totally out of the question as far as driving-distance from where I may be getting a job.  The only hurdle I could see is that they require a 2.75 gpa to transfer in.

Not a problem with my current gpa.  I've got about a 3.1.  However, with the grades I'm anticipating for this coming semester, this could be a challenge.  I have to get a tick higher than a 2.4 to have a cumulative of 2.75. 

That's not impossible, but again, given what I've been up against this past semester, it's going to be a more difficult feat than it should be.  However, there's also a shot at redemption if I don't get there.  Capital will let you transfer and to graduate, you need to finish 45 credit hours, there.

Which means I can keep going at UT until I get my GPA up.  So, I could take a class here and there until I get over the 2.75 number. 

As for the Fall, I think I can stay at UT and take at least six credit hours, which keeps me moving towards graduation and keeps the student loans at bay another semester.  Looking over the schedule, if they'll let me, my best bet is to try and take all flex classes.  For the most part, they are 1 credit hour classes that meet over a long weekend.  If I had to take a half-day off for drive-time, I'd be looking at only a handful of vacation days all told. 

I don't want to miss out on the chance to take some credit hours, but I don't want to overcommit if I'm going to be starting a new job, either.  I can knock out flex hour classes pretty easily. 

After the Fall semester, I should have a good idea of whether I can get telecommuting at work, and/or whether I will have the gpa to transfer to Capital.

Speaking of GPA, I feel okay about my prospects of passing crimlaw.  Need to study a little more and the exam is at 1:00 this afternoon.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Damage Control, What comes next?

I feel pretty good about my prospects in Crim Law. The long weekend should be enough to get me prepared for the exam on Monday. I also will need to get some Contracts in there, too, since I'll only have Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for that.

I actually didn't feel that bad about my Property exam (taken on Tuesday.) I know I missed a lot of points, but I think I have a shot at getting a C. Unfortunately, the more I talk about the exam with fellow students, the worse it looks for me. I missed a lot of major issues.

That's my lowered expectations for this semester. My life has pretty much been a disaster since March. Everything that could go wrong, did, pretty much beyond my most horrifying nightmares.

On the bright side, everything seems to be okay with my son. I also am not experiencing any health issues. So, thanks for small mercies, I guess.

I just don't know what's going to happen after this, but ever since March, my time-frame for planning has shortened considerably. Most days, I am just trying to get through the day.

I can't help but feel that I'll have a couple of classes from this Spring semester that I'll need to re-take. I also may have to drop out and get a job. I don't know if, when or how I'll finish law school at this point. That's just something that's largely out of my control.

I do wish I could continue law school. Even if I had to repeat two classes, that would still mean I successfully completed 8 of my 10 1L classes. Yeah, that means taking Summer classes, or taking classes beyond the proscribed 3 years, but there are worse things in the world. On the bright side, I feel confident that I got a passing grade in Research and Writing and I feel pretty sanguine about the possibility of pulling out a passing grade in a couple of my other classes.

Today is sorta nice. I feel like I did well enough on Constitutional Law to pass. The exam finished up at noon. I'm already jumping on Criminal Law. Now, I'm finally in the swing of things.

I would say there's about a 50/50 shot that I passed Property. However, I feel pretty good about Constitutional Law, the exam I took today.

I think I'm in good shape for Crim Law based on what I see here, and the fact that I have 3 full days before the exam.

I need to allocate some of that time to Contracts, and I think I can pass that, too.

So, all in all, trying to thread the needle. Maybe I'll get through with only Property to repeat. It's not that it was hard stuff to master. It's just that it's hard to focus and stay current when the events in your life have kept you from sleeping more than a couple of hours a night since late February.

I'll need a liberal dose of luck this time around. I truly am testing the question: "how bad can an exam be and still get a C." No offense to my classmates, but I sure wish there were a lot more dumb ones. This curve is seriously tough. I've already seen how tough it is to try to break into the better grades. Now, I'm going to see how hard it is to stay out of the bottom ones.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

WTF is going on?

Okay, a brief break during finals to explain a little of what is going on in my life.

First, I may not be back next semester.  When I started this law school thing, it was sort of on a wing and a prayer.  Held together with duct-tape and chicken wire.  I really needed things to go well in other parts of my life for me to be able to do this.  Fall semester, everything went pretty well.  I was able to devote a lot of time to school.  Did fine with grades.  Was in no real danger of flunking anything.

Spring semester, without going into too many details, has been a disaster in every imagineable way, other than two important ones.  Knock on wood, but my health is still good, and my son is still doing well.  Pretty much everything else in my life got in serious trouble after January first.  Again, don't want to go into too many details, but it was, without doubt, one of the most trying times of my life.  Pretty much everything that could go wrong for me, did.  It was utterly horriffic.

Starting early in March, I wasn't able to sleep.  Really, not until about mid-April when I finally got a little luck and things got a little more under control.  So, I'm still sleep deprived.  It's been difficult to find time to devote to school with all the other fires I've had to put out in my life.  Since March 1, I've been completely exhausted, totally stressed out, sleep-deprived.

The smart thing to do would probably have been to withdraw from all my classes.  I went into finals completely unprepared.  Realistically, I will have difficulty passing any classes.

In the final analysis, though, I figure I'll just cram what I can, take the exams I can take, and see if I pass any of them.  Even if I only pass 2 classes, that's still 2 more than dropping everything.

So, what does the future hold?  Right now, I'm not that sure I'll be back in the Fall.  For one thing, it's entirely likely I'll get into some academic trouble after this semester.  Might be put on probation or kicked out, or whatever.  At a minimum, I will probably have to repeat a couple of classes.  So, things aren't good on the academic front.

I'm also looking for a job, which is problematic in this economy.  Though, I may have a line on a job down in Dayton.  We'll see.  After so many years of trying to keep the business afloat during this recession, it'd be welcome to have a steady paycheck again.  This particular job is one I'd have wanted after law school, anyway.

If I get that job, I guess I could try to transfer down to U of Dayton or Ohio Northern law.  Who knows.  The idea of spending 5 more years getting my degree, part-time, isn't very appealing, in all honesty.

So, that's what's been going on.  It's not been a great few months and everything just became way too much.  The irony is that all these things that I don't like, and that largely I can't help, intruded on one of the parts of my life that I do like, and that I do have some control over:  law school.

It's just that sometimes, the tank is empty and you just don't have anything left.  As things stand, I'm shooting for Cs, and anything higher would be a miracle.  Also, I'm very, very ready to get grades lower than a C based on how I've prepared. 

In my life in general, I think after all these years, you just get sorta stubborn and get a determination that quitting just isn't an option.  I have a son to think about and take care of.  Everything else is a mess, but who knows.  It's not impossible that I could straighten everything out before I die, but it just might take that long.

At this point, for perhaps the very first time in my life, I set a goal every morning of making it through to bedtime.  More than that?  It's just too much to think about and is too overwhelming. 

I know I'll be right as rain someday.  However, I know that it won't be any day soon.  I also don't know how I'll do it. 

Ya just pull up your bandana and cowboy up.  That's what cowboys do.

All in all, it's sort of funny to think that 1L is over.  What a year!  Went by so very quickly.  I wish the stars would align to let me finish this thing out.  Just don't know how I'd make that happen, but who knows. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Back from Spring Break

Okay, time to get down to crunchtime at law school.  Spring break is over and I stretched it out by taking the previous week off to work on my memo.  I still have 2 absences left in each class, but don't intend to use them.

At this point, there are 6 more weeks of classes and 2 weeks of finals to go.  I'm really limping towards the finish.  This is the crunchtime period, though.  I need to start prepping for finals. 

Strange how my perspective is different.  Used to be if I studied the night before an exam, I felt completely prepared.  Now, if I start studying 6 weeks out, I have this nagging feeling that I should probably have started earlier. 

Not sure if I'll be able to continue full-time after this semester.  I have so much up in the air.  The business has been doing so poorly, I probably need to find a job.  If I can't find one, I might need to move to a city with a more vibrant economy. 

Like pretty much everything in my life, my plans for getting through law school are a bit hazy.  However, I know what I have to do for the next 2 months.  Whatever happens after that is anybody's guess.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spring Break!

I just finished my appellate brief.  Nice to have that weight off my shoulders.  No more real writing assignments this year.  I'll have an upper level writing requirement eventually, but not sure when that will happen. 

Still totally lacking in motivation.  I'm going to take this Spring Break away from school entirely.  Won't study much if any.  I also need to devote some attention to non-school stuff.  I have a couple of training classes I need to attend, for instance.

Hard to believe that there is only 6 more weeks of class after Spring Break.  If you don't obsess about it, the time goes by pretty quickly.  Hard to believe that in 2 months, my first year of law school will be in the bag.

1 down, 2 to go.  Not that encouraging, really.  However, I'll have the Summer to recouperate.  I am not looking for any internships or legal employment over the Summer.  Probably should, but won't.  The Summer classes are all offerred in the evening, when Logan's mom works.  So, taking a class here or there won't work, either.

If I can just get through this semester without having to repeat any classes, it'll be a wonderful thing.