Tuesday, December 04, 2012

On the Unit Today

First thing I met with a client who spotted me at the nurse's station, asked me if I was a lawyer, wanted to talk.  So we sat down in private and he began by telling me that he wanted to go back to the group home he had been staying in.  At least I think that's what he was saying.  It was hard to follow him.  He mumbled.  Like many of my clients, he was unable to remain focused on a single train of thought.  I couldn't tell if he was borderline retarded, overmedicated, or acutely psychotic.  Maybe some combination thereof.  He wasn't altogether incoherent, just difficult to follow.  He told me he had two fathers, that one had left him money but the government stopped paying but they weren't supposed to.  His father had to prove he could take care of him.  He had been abused his whole life.  No little kid, 10, 12 should have to see.  All the blood and everything.  Like many of my clients, he was unable to express to me what he wanted me to do.  Probably, to the extent that his thoughts hung together this well, he just knew that he had a bunch of problems and lawyers are supposed to fix problems and right wrongs.

Fix problems and right wrongs.  That's what I thought I would be doing as a lawyer.  It seems almost foolish to me now.  Like I would pass the bar exam and be handed a magic wand.  Yet, I still believe that's my job. It's still why I'm doing this.  Fix problems and right wrongs within a narrowly circumscribed framework.  That second part is what I'm coming to understand.

And a lawyer is only as powerful as his clients.  By that I mean that lawyers appear powerful to people because they are instruments of the powerful.  Corporate lawyers don't win because corporations hire the best lawyers (though they sure try).  They win because they have all the money.

Back to the unit.

My next client made a suicide pact with her husband.  He succeeded.  She had given him the morphine that he used.  She took more than him.  They couldn't pay the bills anymore.  He was slipping into dementia.  And now she was here in front of me.  What is there to say to her?  Sure, I can tell her not to talk to police without a lawyer.  I can advise her of her present legal status.  But really, what in fuck all am I doing here?  What can I possibly say to this woman that will mean anything?  Her husband died less than a week ago.  As far as I can tell, she remains ambivalent about not dying alongside her partner.  She was soft spoken.  Quite friendly in a diffident sort of way.  I felt powerless and wanted to get away.

A while back I sat down for a meeting with a woman who would turn her face away from me, hold one hand over her ear like she was receiving a radio transmission through an earpiece, start muttering to an unseen interlocutor, and then answer herself back.  "Frederick, they're trying to send me away.  Do you see what they're doing to me here?  Sally, this is Frederick, we're not going to let them do that to you.  We're coming to get you today and we're going to take you home with us.  You don't have to take that from them."  When the subject of her hospitalization and the hospital's desire that she take psych meds came up, she would weep and wail "there's nothing the matter with me."

I wanted to run from her.  I wanted to run screaming from from the lobby, run the 60 miles home, and never speak the name of the city of my employ again.

That was months ago.  Still trying to fix problems and right wrongs.  Still earning my paycheck.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Poem

This wing's air wheezes dust,
Day wrought grey by crosshatch screen.
It's quiet time.
Four steps across my room
Four from wall to wall.
If I focus I can find the pattern.

Glue glitter on workbook pattern.
Press into paste metalic dust.
No break in the wall.
No bar to pry the screen.
Shuffle every tangent cross the room
Cold and smeared for all time.

That first time,
Lost in orange mottled carpet pattern
Chanting cross the room,
Ashimmer, every thought burst to dust.
Then on your knees behind the screen.
Shackles bolted to the wall.

Paste it to the wall,
For all the watchers of time.
On every whispering screen
A pattern
Battles dust
For the honor of burying me in this room.

There's no room
Beyond the wall,
Only rubble and dust.
A place outside time.
A readymade pattern.
A silk screen.

They installed the screen
To crowd my will from the room
With pat pattern
Patter banking off blank wall.
So there is no time,
Only layers of dust

Screen upon wall.
Room swelled with time.
Pattern in dust.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Another "Win"

I went in today on what was supposed to be a day off in order to have a hearing for client who wanted out of the hospital. It was a tough fight. Prehearing motions, objections, chastisements from the judge. I went after the psychiatrist pretty hard on cross. He admitted he hadn't examined her for two weeks and that he didn't know if she was presently suicidal. I put my client on the stand and she did fairly well. Admitted to a drug problem. Admitted mental illness (PTSD, not the way off base diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder given by the psychiatrist). Judge reserved decision. I told my client to hold on, that I didn't know how long a decision would take, that the long-term goal was keeping her out of the state hospital. I came home and, around 4PM, got a call from work. We won. The judge ruled that the hospital did not prove that she presented a threat of serious harm to herself or others as a result of a mental illness. Huzzah? I hope she doesn't OD.

Election Angst

The presidential election has been dominating the news for months now. I am so sick of the coverage that I often ignore the news. Most of what is reported is gossip and boosterism. Obama going to Afghanistan on the anniversary of bin Laden's death does not induce questions about the decade-old war in Afghanistan, extra judicial killings, or whether the chase was worth the cost. Reporters simply play a clip from whatever vapid speech he gave and then quote republican politicians and political hacks complaining not about the manner of the killing, consequences of it, events leading to it, or even the waste of resources involved in flying to Afghanistan for a photo op, but about him unfairly trying to gain political advantage from the death. In other words, his critics were offended by his style. He was being uncouth. The unrelenting falseness of it repels me. Even further alienating me from politics is that, as Ralph Nader has long argued, both parties are corporate apparatuses. The federal government continues to strengthen itself and the executive continues to assert greater and greater power to ignore the laws passed by congress. Meanwhile, the supreme court issues impenetrable 100-page opinions to justify decisions that can usually be predicted by the party preferences of the judges. But then I see meaningful issues at stake, such as gay marriage and civil rights for gay people, financial and environmental regulation, and social services, and I re-engage. If a republican is elected, I think the country will be worse off than if a democrat is elected. But Obama has been consistently bad on civil liberties, his white house has operated with corporate-like security, and has loaded with gold the corporate criminals responsible for the market collapse. I live in New York, so it really doesn't matter who I vote for for President. I will probably lodge a protest vote of some sort. But I've been pulling for Obama, rooting against Romney. The lesser of two evils. Someone who often seems like he's trying to the right thing. And there's the fear of what would happen if the Republicans got back into power and no one bothered to throw sops to the peasants. If Paul Ryan got to run the show. Then again, maybe I just get sucked into the simple theater/sport of it. Hooray, the Yankees win! Hooray, the Democrats win! Let's go out for Mickey Dee's! So a big part of me wants to say, fuck mainstream politics, I need to focus on something meaningful. Either guy will continue to support the catastrophic Drug War, either will fail to prosecute elites for crimes that would put a poor person in prison, and either will spend much of his time making sure that the money that got him elected stays satiated. But then, Paul Ryan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More Cinquains

Is not the night
Your life changes like you
So long dreamed under tree-shadow,
Dumb kid

Is for the young.
How to see the future
As ascending blast of guts and

In Ed's
Room, his finger
Jabbed into my soft chest,
He seems to think that I did this
To him

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Applicant, your
Resume must whisper
Profit, Ivy. Or admit you

When you
won't go the speed
limit, I say “Come on,
are you new to driving?” like I
hate you

I called for you
for hours until my throat
was raw and torn but you didn't

I called for you;
you came and put the room
in order never asking why
I called


The ward
stifles Edward
needs a cigarette and
fresh air all he needs, like any

The meds
Flatten feeling
The me I know is gone
Wretched as I was before I know this
Is wrong

Is twenty one
Mixed lithium and booze
Called the help-line slumping into

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Poverty of Spirit

Over 15 percent of Americans live in poverty. That's over 46 million people. I fail to comprehend how people can claim with straight faces that deregulation and lowering taxes on the wealthy will raise people out of poverty. We've been following that tack as a country for decades now and even during boom times, the income gap has widened.

The more we deregulate, the more we relax the tax burden on the wealthy, the more wealth will concentrate in the 1%. It's not as if there's an unlimited amount of money. If we lower taxes on the wealthy, they will have more money. Natch. They are not likely to share it. George Bush doesn't care about black people. The Dick Cheneys and Kochs of the world do not care about poor people. They care about their friends. It's human nature. Explain to me how lowering taxes is going to bring jobs to cities with no industry? Will it bring the steel mills back to Bethlehem? Will Detroit's crumbling architecture be returned to its former glory. Or have tectonic shifts occurred in this country's demographic landscape, condemning certain areas to slow death.

Does anyone actually believe the tortured proposition that is the centerpiece of the loudest conservative argument on addressing poverty: that making the rich richer will also make the poor richer. Will we all get richer to infinity?

That's why we have progressive tax. Redistribution of wealth is not a socialist scheme to ruin America. Taxation is, by definition, redistribution of wealth. The rich person subsidizes the indigent's police protection, fire service, road maintenance.

You know what the poverty line for a single person is as of Sept 2011? $10,890. Is it supposed to be acceptable that 15 percent of the citizens of this great and powerful nation make less than $11,000 a year? I guess that's a bit of hyperbole: the line moves up depending on the size of your family. A family of four is below the poverty line if its income is below $22,350.

I have heard people argue that America's poor are wealthy compared to, say, African poor. Are you shitting me? A kid living in the slum has a cell phone and nice sneakers that a kid in the Congo could never afford, so the American kid is really well off. No matter that he's moved seven times in the last six months because his mom's minimum wage job can't pay the rent. In fact, it's his fault, it's his mom's fault for daring to spend money on sneakers and cell phones.

Aside: Where would some powerful American companies be without the money they reap from the poor community?

I'm not insensitive to the fact that bad regs can hurt businesses large and small alike. I also think there's some merit to the argument that the way that social welfare programs are administered can encourage dependence and teach helplessness. And I certainly would like the tax code to be simplified. But let's fix these problems. Let's not assume that, because our social service system is near broken, that an efficient social service system cannot exist. Have people who want to end public assistance considered what would happen? Many cities would essentially go up in flames as people with no money, no jobs, and no hope, drove out those with enough money to flee. People would starve to death in some areas. We should be putting more energy and more money into the shameful state of poverty in this country. So absolutely, let's rewrite the tax code. But let's make it fairer, not more oppressive to the lower classes (I'm looking at you flat taxers).

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Free Market Fantasy

Can there be any such thing as a free stock market when corporations and stock exchanges are creations of law? The stock market is a rarefied OTB where gamblers/investors/speculators place bets on companies' success or failure. Because the shares are fungible and entitle the largest holders a say in the operation of the corporation, the quickest paydays will be made by artificially inflating the value of the the corporation at the expense of long-term planning. Success has become synonymous with apparent profitability. Investors expect an eternal rise in profits.

Both corporations and markets are entirely legal creations. Thus, there is no such thing as a "free" or "unregulated" stock market. If the power of law is in the people and the authority for the corporation and stock market created by law, then we the people should ensure that corporations operate for the maximum benefit of the people as a whole. Acting as if a certain set of rules that protects the supremacy of the powerful represents a state of freedom is how this nation's elite have convinced a majority of the populace that we need to treat GE in the same way that we treat Pop's Grocery.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Claiming Ignorance as Hard-Won Bounty

Surely every season sees days of grey that blot memory of life-giving light. Yet this grey feels more ominous, more complete, more awful, more intentional than a mere southern squall line or western front. This is no front, but the vanguard of the heavenly host riding to finish what so blithely we began.

From dead bat-choked cave, field of uranium, silo, from unmarked grave issue dark warriors obeying our every command. Deny it we must, but call them we did.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

24-inch titanium alloy. Longer lasting mascara.

Keep your responsible investing schemes and your 501(c)(3)s, Priuses, compost, and grass-fed beef in your 401-k tax deferred superfund, fully vested in a halflife, dollar for dollar, up to 33% APR. Keep it.

Dial up your sleep number, program your coffeemaker, set the cruise control, keep it in the black, produce.

Get better ideas faster easier. Free time to sculpt yourself into tumescent Rococo twirls, twists, bulges.

Soak in the chemical bath, fight fibromyalgia, schizoaffective panic disorder, carpal tunnel vision, succumb to input addiction.