Sunday, March 1, 2015

House of Cards, Missouri Style

I have been home feeling very poorly since Wednesday evening,  bored and feeling too sick to concentrate on real work. Two things happened while I was filled with self-pity and boredom. The first was, on Thursday morning that Auditor Tom Schweich shot himself and was in the hospital.  We soon discovered he was dead.  I do not know Tom Schweich at all, and I voted for his first opponent, but I and apparently many others, were shocked that this 54 year lawyer, in his first time politically elected position, and just a month and a half after he announces his candidacy for Governor, would then shoot himself in the head.

Even though I had never met the man, in the few years he served as out auditor, I was impressed.  He audited.  He went after several agencies.  We had a trial in St. Joseph, Missouri around the time the first hint of Schweich's audit of the school district broke. The news was disconcerting, money running out of the school board as if it were running a marathon.  No educators or administrators accounting for expenses, going through the bid process, or acting as if they were handling public funds.  This was outrageous stuff and heads were going to roll.

When Schweick announced for Governor, he criticized Missouri's self-appointment Little Caesar, Rex Sinquefield, for engaging in bribery, presumably legal bribery nonetheless, for contributing $1,000,000s  to candidates and causes with which Mr. Anti-Tax, Anti-Kindness and Anti-Dear Heart would contribute.  Reading through the lines, I thought Schweich felt like many, this blatant buying off Missouri government was not just disappointing, but down-right scary.  Sinquefiled seems to want to call the shots, and I thought we don't have monarchies here.

But the thing that was the strangest, was the Republican Party leader, John Hancock (really, his parents could not be a little more original?) admitted that he might have told other Republicans that Schweich was Jewish, even though he was Episcopalians with a Jewish father.  Hancock claimed he really thought Schweich was Jewish.  As a Jew, I wonder why Republican Hancock thinks Schweich being a member of the Jewish faith was significant to his work as a Republican.  It feels the same way when men criticize other men by telling them the "throw like a girl."  You know it's an insult and you wonder why it's needed.  Schweich had a Jewish grandfather, so what?

However, Hancock had riled Schweich up so much the day Schweich died that Schweich had scheduled a press conference to discussion the issue, scheduled for Schweich's home at 2:30 p.m., some 5 hours or so before Schweich died.

There are a lot of things here that make no sense to me.  Again, I don't know Schweich and I do not know who does.  He may have been very upset, perhaps suicidal.  It seems odd, though, that a person would muster the energy to declare a candidacy for the highest office in this state, start campaigning, go to some whatever they go to, hear personal slams, etc., call reports to schedule a press conference that day, and then kill oneself hours before the press conferences and minutes after the conferences were scheduled.

Schweich sure looked good on paper.  He was a maverick-y, whistle blower-type.  He listened to the beat of a different drummer.  I thought those qualities were so refreshing.  An auditor who audits he government, who fights greed and corruption for the common good.  Ahhh.  What a nice thought.  I suspect Katherine Hanaway, who I do not know at all, has a particular set of skills that differ from Schweich's.    I

I am at a loss because I did not know of Schweich enough to imagine what could have been.  But, this weekend, I began watching Season 3 of House of Cards.  That was the second event of which I mentioned above. Yikes!  For the first time I have more insight into what government can become if there are no checks.  Schweich was renowned for fighting corruption.  We need those with courage to fight the status quo.  We need people like Tom Schweich.  I hope no elected officials more mysteriously die.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Patricia Arquette - A New Appreciation

I watched "Boyhood? and really enjoyed the movie.  It is a sweet story about a boy growing up in a household after his parent's divorce. Patricia Arquette  was very good as the boy's mom, but I have never really thought much about her.  I knew she has won a lot of awards for her performance and I think her acceptance speeches have been just fine, until tonight.

Watching the Academy Awards, Arquette predictably won the Oscar for best supporting actress.   She got up to give her speech, like she did at the other awards ceremonies.  As she got to the end of the obligatory thank you's, her words began to come more rapidly.  This is not what I had seen before.  In a hurried fashion, trying to get the words out before the orchestra started playing, she raised her Oscar and declared, "We need to make sure that women are paid equally."  She went on about pay inequity and and the struggles of female workers.  Meryl Streep and other women in the crowd started clapping their hands over their heads.  It was so cool.

When the movie "The Interview" was protested by North Korea, and the Sony emails were leaked, some interesting facts came out.  In "American Hustle." Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were paid less than Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale.  Why?  There was no explanation, but women actors typically are paid less than men, even when women such as Lawrence and Adams are major audience draws.

Our society pays women less than men, and women of color are paid considerably less than men of any color, but especially white men.  Gender pay inequity is so ingrained in our society that it goes unquestioned.  There is excuse after excuse, but the fact remains, women are paid less than men. Single mothers are oftentimes hard-pressed to pay their bills.  I grew up in a household where my parents were divorced,. My very intelligent mother worked hard, but we hardly got by and my grandparents helped subsidize our living expenses.  We could not live on my mother's wages.  There is no good reason that men should be paid more than women.  It has been 50 years since the the Equal Pay Act was passed outlawing pay discrimination, but women still make $.76 for every $1.00 a man makes, on average.

It was so unexpected and wonderful to hear Patricia Arquette.  It's about time that women are valued monetarily, where it counts in our society.  Good for Arquette!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Throwing Like A Girl

You know when movies show soldiers in war and the Sergeant comes up and calls them to attention, and calls the men to attention by saying, "Ladies, are you going to fight or run?" or some such nonsense after calling the guys "ladies."  Well, folks, calling men "ladies" is no insult.  Calling anyone "ladies" is a downright compliment.

I represent both women and men and I have met some pretty amazing people of both genders.  Some of my male clients have demonstrated amazing courage, but no less than some of my female clients.  In today's day and age, women fight in wars, play baseball, drive race cars, climb mountains, become neurosurgeons, write computer programs, and fight fires.  Men bake cakes, drive the kids to school, type, clean houses and grocery shop.

When I grow up I want to be Mo'Ne Davis.  She throws like a girl.

Monday, February 9, 2015

WHAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH OUR TAXES GOING FOR COLLEGE?

When I was a teenager, my family did not have a lot of money to send me to college.    Even though I had decent grades in high school, with little effort or extra-curricular activities, I need to stay home and help my brother and mother get by.  A single mother back then, my mother, could not raise a family on a secretary's salary.  My mother was, and is, smart and she worked hard, but she just couldn't stretch the pittance she was paid.  My dad was not sending child support and I suspect that he could not, with another son and wife in the mix.  So, I feared it was up to me to get through college.

When I went to my guidance counselor at Southwest High School, she asked me to which schools I applied and I told her UMKC.  "Oh, your grades reflect that you can go away to a better school than that."  I explained, I could not. I was helping my mom pay bills and the easiest way to be able to pay bills was to work in Kansas City while in school.  Of course, my decision was made more palatable by my then boyfriend, now husband, living in the area and also attending UMKC.

When I got ready to apply for school, I applied for financial aid.  In addition to the application for scholarships (I got one which I lost after the fun first year), I applied for somethings I had never heard of before - a Pell Grant and work-study.   I did not know these programs were need-based, what many would call "welfare."  I got that aid, and worked in various departments for work-study, Speech and Hearing Science and English and Biology.  I liked those jobs and learned things there , doing clerical work, that I would not have known otherwise.  Plus, I developed a strong work ethic.

The Pell Grant sure came in handy!  I do not know how I would have got through undergraduate studies with out those funds.  When I married after my junior year, I no longer qualified because of my husband's family's assets and income.  By then, I did not need the money.  My husband worked, and he helped with my last year of undergrad and he and my grandmother, along with my work, were able to help me through law school five years later.

I am sure grateful for the government assistant, welfare, if you will, that I received that helped me to get an education.   I hear some people say that a college education was not worth the price.  I sure got many times more than the assistance was worth.  Up until college, I could type.  Typing was my only real skill.  I could have worked as an administrative professional my whole life, but,  to be brutally truthful, I was not that great of a secretary.  I worked hard, but I was not a perfectionist.  I hated to proofread and I loathed correcting errors not only on the cover letter, but also on copies with "white-out."  Plus, my hand-eye coordination is not that great and I do not type fast and make lots of mistakes.  I am much more suited to be a lawyer.  I feel I have been a productive citizen and the investment this country made in me was a good one.

Now, instead of increasing aid to students, some states like Kansas, want to cut aid.  People balk at President Obama's plan for more educational assistance. I guess if I had been born thirty years later, I would be somebody's horrible secretary messing up letters and would be burned out.

It seems to me that we can set up a system for free college education at some public colleges, just a s we do for secondary education.  In a few short years,  manual jobs won't exist and technical will continue to be more intense.  Don't we owe the people of the future the opportunities to succeed and to make this world succeed.  We are all part of this great big marble.  We need to start acting like it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

TEN SUGGESTIONS FOR LIVING A FULFILLING LIFE

Ten Suggestions For Living A Good Life

1.  Give more than you take and give with no expectations.

2.   Be persistent and tenacious.  Nothing worthwhile is easy.  Don't take the easiest way, challenge yourself even when you are scared.

3.   Laugh every day and make others laugh every day. 

4.   Surround yourself with bright colors.

5.   Listen to music you love every day, and sing even if you are tone deaf.

6.   Become serene, breathe deeply, and be outdoors.

8.   Stay curious and read a lot and continue to learn, grow and accept change.

9.   Realize that forgiveness sets you free.

10.  Surround yourself with people you love and love children and dogs.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Special People I Have Had the Honor to Represent

I have been a lawyer a long time and through the years I have represented many people.  Most cases are settled, but there are those clients with I have had the pleasure of representing in trial.  Going to trial with a client is not how it is portrayed on television.  Those clients of mine who have the fortitude to sit powerlessly through a trial, confined for the most part at the counsel table, after years of intense scrutiny, invasive questions and worse, while they must blindly trust me, the judge and the judicial process are courageous.  Their seat at the counsel table is not one that I would want.

Since I have been trying cases for many years, I am now fortunate to see what has become of many of my clients.  With the invent of Facebook, I can follow their lives and live vicariously through their victories.  The clients with whom I am still in contact, have by and large, gone on to lead interesting, productive and exciting lives.  I am precluded from being more specific without getting their permission, to expand.  However, I am moved by their courage they continue to display after they have sued their employers and what they choose to do professionally and personally.  These are not people with repeat lawsuits or those who see themselves as victims.  They start businesses, contribute to the community, pursue spiritual and religious goals, raise their adorable children in healthy houses and continue to live happy, productive lives.

I have no first-hand knowledge of what impact the act of baring ones soul up to complete strangers in the jury box and behind the bench has on a person, since I have never been a plaintiff or a defendant in a trial.  I wonder if I am brave enough to have their fortitude and then trust that strangers will be fair and just.  I believe that most jurors are courageous themselves, take their important role seriously, and do everything in their  power to see that justice is done, but there are no guarantees.  I can just watch and hope for the best for them.  My clients surrender their beings to the civil jury system, and that takes much courage.  The jurors take their jobs very seriously, and that is why the system works, because people are basically good, and  fair, and have group intelligence.  But the act of surrender is not an easy one.

Most of the time, my thoughts are consumed with looking at the cases and clients at hand.  But when I encounter or read or contact the clients of my past, I am so happy for them and so honored that I was given the honor of representing them.  What I see of the lives of my former clients after litigation makes me happy.  I am so fortunate to have been honored to know these incredible people who draw strength from their struggles and make this world a better place. the end of my career, which hopefully is a few years away, I can reflect on my years as a lawyer and the special place these wonderful people have had in my life.  Thank you for inspiring me.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tomorrow we celebrate Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.  Although he was murdered in 1968, his impact is timeless.  In history, there are few heroes who have impacted America and Western Society.  Throughout history, there have been many brave people who have made a difference.  Dr. King undoubtedly knew that his life was in jeopardy, and he did not stop.  He was a leader unprecedented in American history.  What set him apart for me was his insistence on protesting nonviolently.  His commitment to nonviolence, during violent and turbulent times was not only brave, but also revolutionary in our country.

Years ago, I purchased and have read, over and over, "The Autobiography of Martin Luther King."  He never wrote an autobiography.  The book is a reprint of his speech and writings and it is brilliant.  Dr. King's influence benefited all oppressed or disfavored groups in the world.  Since he marched, America has been transformed.  Not only was he instrumental in the passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act, his movement caused major upheavals in power structure in the world.

Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader for all Americans, in fact for all people.  There have been few people who have benefited humanity more than he did.  He belongs in the ranks of Gandhi, Lincoln, Mandela, Mother Theresa, George Washington and other courageous crusaders throughout history.  We are all better for his work.