Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Politics of Reconciliation

Reconciliation is not a popular political choice apparently. I wasn’t going to write anything today, but I noticed the article on Pastor Rick Warren defending his choice to give the invocation at Barak Obama’s inauguration, despite the fact he is openly hostile to the concept of gay marriage. The "left" as characterized by the news report is up in arms over the choice.

I’ve never completely understood the religious animosity towards liberal thinking. I’ve always believed that true Christian beliefs were more conducive to liberal, rather than conservative thought. You know – feed the poor and the hungry and do unto others. Somehow divisiveness over abortion, homosexuality and feminism, led the Christians away from New Deal politics.

I applaud Obama’s attempt at trying to bridge that gap in his bookend pastors for his inauguration – the anti-gay marriage pastor and the pro-gay marriage pastor. Anyone that is truly concerned about getting away from politics as usual and in favor of progressive government policies on an economic level, need to encourage their political representatives and political parties to remove the "moral" and "family value" issues and address what should be the real issues of politics: how best to govern and how best to protect all members of the society. Leave individual morality to the churches and religions and promote a society that isn’t divided, but reconciled towards common goals that we can all agree on.

Political discussion can actually have some benefit when it is about how best to accomplish a goal, rather than fighting over what the goals should be. The goals of a government are simple in theory – "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and secure the blessings of liberty for us and our posterity." Let’s go back to step one – a more perfect union can only be created by knowing when we can agree to disagree. This is the message of Obama’s pastor choice. We must have a society that can agree to disagree.

Our political debates should be about how to better serve justice, peace and liberty with our government, not how with religion and belief.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I’ve been fascinated by the idea of persona lately, whether it be a literary persona, a work persona, a dramatic character persona, a psychological persona or the new incarnation of the digital on-line persona. I find myself constantly donning masks to the point of wondering who I am. Am I the husband? The parent? The lawyer? The writer? The sinner? The saint? Am I my digital persona? Who the hell am I?

Social networking sites like FaceBook and MySpace are exercises in persona creation. I get to pick and chose the facade I give the digital world. The more devout afficionados of the digital world create their own websites. The real world is reflected in the digital world, but it is a funhouse mirror warped by the design and desire of each person posting.

The creation of a persona or societal mask is nothing new. High school is where every adolescent cuts their teeth on persona creation and the high school personas are predictable – the hot girl, the bookworm, the jock, the drama queen, the rebel. Go rent a copy of The Breakfast Club if you need a refresher course. Adults aren’t much better in the lawyer’s suits, the houses on the hill, the cars (or big trucks) and the entire fashion and makeup industry.

Digital persona are frighteningly easy to create, desperately hard to maintain and control. Fleshy manifestations of persona aren’t easily copied or replicated and due to years of culturization more easily interpreted. Changing one’s flesh persona took time and effort and was a gradual process. I’m no Luddite, but the digital persona swoon can make me light headed.

Another downside is the Narcissistic quality of digital persona, basically a "look at me" culture. Maybe that is why it always feels like high school – it is the adolescent technology screaming for attention. How will digital technology mature? Or are we to be always mired in MySpace and FaceBook?

As I was writing that last paragraph, I realized that I was a little bit off put by the fact that the geeky technology, which used to provide anonymity and protection to my anti-social side has turned into an exhibitionistic orgy with the explosion of social networking sites. I’m the nerd with glasses again being simultaneously turned on and socially overwhelmed by the cheerleader.

The technology has advanced to the point where maintaining a digital life is a little bit like being an adolescent whose diary is always accessible to their parents. Whatever you post, whatever you say, whatever floats off your keyboard into the internet ether is probably and in most instances lost forever, yet on occasion, it comes back transfigured into something unrecognizable or terrifying, often carried by the panting mutt, Google.

Google sounds like goggles and those Google goggles are peering at your every move trying to reduce your fleshy persona into a consuming, buying, advertising accessible animal whose data is slowly being filled in. Google is trying to clone you and anticipate your every move and like Pavlov’s dogs we salivate because Google gives us what we want. Google is the digital Big Brother watching our every move.

My predisposition has always been towards privacy – be it digital or earthly. Yet, I’m starting to wonder if privacy is such a great thing. I’m still very interested in protecting things that people want kept private, but I see a benefit to the lack of on-line privacy. The benefit is by being constantly googled, goggled and gapped at, the mature development is to create an on-line persona with integrity that includes the various flesh incarnations’ strengths and faults. In a world of ones and zeros, the digital persona that best reflects the real person will give the real person the most value in the real world. Become one with your digital self.

The other factor in this privacy debate is that the Internet is essentially the marketplace. Humans have always congregated for social and economic exchange and the two have always gone hand in hand. Posting on-line is supposed to have an economic impact for the participant. Do any of us really expect privacy in the marketplace? The two are incongruous. You enter the marketplace (and I envision street bazaars or farmer’s markets) and nothing is private. To resurrect a cliche, people who live in glass blogs shouldn’t post stones – or something like that.

Simply realizing that the on-line world is a big market free-for-all changes all sorts of perceptions about on-line privacy.

We now convey information more freely, but we are still working on the infrastructure for how that is to function economically. Our libraries are manifestation of the willingness to pay economically for ideas, but the pricing of those ideas has always been a conflict. I’m writing this sitting in my library at home, cocooned in books. Many of the authors died impecunious – Thomas Paine and Oscar Wilde are a couple that spring to mind. Great ideas and great writing have not always ended in an economic payoff. Dying has often been one of those great mechanisms for validating an artistic position. The point is the old system wasn’t always that great at allocating economic resources to benefit the writer and artist and the new system suffers from the same problem, but also offers some unique solutions.

The main solution I see is that it allows us to create social networks that match our own predispositions. I’m no economist and I’m a little bit upset that they made economics such a dry topic when I took it in college, because I’m fascinated by it now, particularly as it pertains to writing and art. I read a short story by Tolstoy, "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" this week. The moral of the story is essentially don’t forget your mortality in your acquisitiveness.

How much income does an artist need? This is the question I find intriguing in light of the internet culture. I wonder how much income would I need from my writing to pull the literary equivalent of a Gaugin and chuck it all and move to Tahiti and spend the rest of my life swimming in the warm tropical words. I do the math. 1000 fans at $10 a month and I think I could probably do it. Math is an evil thing, because 10x1000 is such an easy equation. You see someone with 850 friends on FaceBook or you see the amount of traffic other blogs receive and it almost seems do-able.

The problem is that the art suffers if you turn from artist to huckster to get your thousand, so the art must come first. Which brings me back to the original thrust of this post – what is a digital persona? Is it the huckster selling? Is it the tortured artist? Is it the social butterfly? Is it the bitter misanthrope? Who am I and why have I donned this digital mask and entered this new frontier? In the past, I’ve always been just a little bit fearful of what I’ve posted on-line, wondering about the what ifs were a client, a potential reader, a judge, another attorney, my siblings or my parents to read this. The answer is amazingly simple and amazingly difficult all at the same time – be a person of integrity and it doesn’t matter.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I’ve always loved books. The word written down on a page or a computer screen – it hasn’t mattered. The power of the Word has influenced me throughout my life, transformed me as a person and shaped my life in ways I probably haven’t even imagined. I’ve read countless books from first grade on and how I think, how I feel, how I love, how I parent, how I make a living have all been shaped by the written word.

Now, I’ve spent an entire Sunday morning wallowing around in words, trying to make digital connections (and failing mostly). The irony is that as I listen to the words of the Christmas songs wafting down the stairs, I realize that my whole life is now connected to things I’ve written. I met my wife because she writes. I read what she wrote. I wrote about it. Now we are married and she lets me stay downstairs on Sunday and play around with words.

The playground of words is so broad and so encompassing, it is easy to feel lost, like I do now. You scream out the words, but no one hears. Words are most beautiful when they are heard, acknowledged and understood.

The power of words comes from their ability to connect us (or in the context of the law – control us). I think I prefer connection over control. I ache for my words to connect and sometimes they actually do.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


It is appropriate that I am writing this on an extreme deadline – I have less than an hour before I need to get ready to start my day of picking up children, meeting with clients and going to court. Almost every tick of the clock today is going to entail me interacting with and depending on the people around me. Just the simple act of getting out of bed, walking downstairs, reading the paper, drinking and preparing a warm glass of liquid and sitting down to write this little blog post and I’ve relied on countless individuals.

I usually only get these thoughts when I have a moment for quiet reflection and the effect is always extreme humility. I can’t do anything by myself without help. I sit now at a table that I don’t even know who manufactured and built, who shipped the table and which store sold the table to my wife before I was ever even in the picture. So my laptop is propped up by factory workers, lumpers, and a retail sales staff – not much independence there. I did not even mention all the parts of the laptop, the history of computing and science that developed the technology to allow me to write this in the hour before I go to work in the morning and post it for essentially the entire world before breakfast compliments of ISPs, digital theoreticians, Hewlett and Packard, Thomas Edison and my seventh grade typing teacher, whose name I can’t remember and who taught me how to type in a room full of Selectrics from IBM, so I guess IBM deserves some credit (or blame) as well.

Time keeps ticking. As totally dependent as I am on the entirety of human existence that has preceded me, the dependence on the ticking clock is what really enslaves me. I want to contribute to the massive flood of interdependence that is the human condition and to make the slightest ripple on the surface of surging existence I need time – and I don’t have any.

Nurturing relationships takes time. Making a living takes time. Raising children takes time. Developing a career takes time. The simple act of reading the paper takes time. Getting Thanksgiving dinner takes time. Getting into shape and staying healthy takes time. Reading takes time. An all time great thief of time – writing.

Time is all about taking.

I’m always humbled by the fact that if someone is bothering to read this I’ve taken their time. This morning I’ve read Philip Roth, various articles in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman and JulieAnn (my wife and author) – all before 6:30 a.m. In fact it was the New York Times that inspired this riff on time and interdependence. Sometime before 5:00 a.m. my Kindle downloads the New York Times on my digital doorstep with a digital thunk on my bedside table. I’m compelled to read the paper. I want to read Friedman on the latest economic meltdown. I want to read about the Obama transition team’s exploits. I want to read about how Philip Roth’s publisher has placed a moratorium on acquiring new books and how his Roth’s last three books sold less than 75,000 copies in hardback. I want to think about what that means to an aspiring writer who is masquerading as an attorney and happens to be one of the less than 75,000 that bought Roth’s books.

I’m caught in the cross currents of time and interdependence. Time constraints pull me in various directions, while interdependence goes in another and the swirl can require every effort to try and create a modicum of self-determination in the direction I’m heading. Right now, I’m headed to the showers – a cliched sports metaphor and the reality of my day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I’m having serious issues with the tenth commandment. I am coveting someone else’s words. Few authors make me covet their work – at various times Dostoevsky, Philip Roth, Shakespeare, Kerouac, T. S. Eliot and Kafka have made me slip into paroxysms of jealousy and desire. Yet one author stands above the rest for me – Henry Miller.

Miller has a strange and glorious cosmology, mixing mortality and philosophy into a down and dirty humanism. Miller has the ragged and romantic streets of 1930's Paris as a back drop to much of his writing and he takes full advantage of the squalor and decadence to state his case on creating art and being human. Look at this writing:

When the eyes waggle then will I hear again Dostoievski’s words, hear them rolling on page after page, with minutest observation, with maddest introspection, with all the undertones of misery now lightly, humorously touched, now swelling like an organ note until the heart bursts and there is nothing left but a blinding, scorching light, the radiant light that carries off the fecundating seeds of the stars. The story of art whose roots lie in massacre.

I read that and I honestly don’t feel worthy to hold the moniker of writer and think my voice is not Art. An anger and frustration wells up inside me and again a voice from the grave sings to me. Henry has felt the anger and frustration and fought back with a vengeance. He is more alive now, even though he is dead. He is dead and lives. I live and part of me feels dead. Yet he fights and dances on my living corpse on a Sunday morning when his immortal words out live his worn out and decaying flesh.

Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty . . . what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse . . .

Henry was persecuted and prosecuted for his blasphemy that being honestly human is the most difficult of tasks. Yes, he used naughty words, but the repulsion to the dirt, the rejection of the dirt is the rejection of the dust and Earth where Henry rots and dances. The fight to be human and to create art out of being human and out of surviving is the dance against death, against inevitability, against the dust we sprang from and to which we again descend. As usual, Henry writes it and it is not off key:

If there were a man who dared to say all that he thought of this world there would not be left him a square foot of ground to stand on. When a man appears the world bears down on him and breaks his back. There are always too many rotten pillars left standing, too much festering humanity for man to bloom. The superstructure is a lie and the foundation is a huge quaking fear. If at intervals of centuries there does appear a man with a desperate, hungry look in his eye, a man who would turn the world upside down in order to create a new race, the love that he brings to the world is turned to bile and he becomes a scourge. If now and then we encounter pages that explode, pages that wound and sear, that wring groans and tears and curses, know that they come from a man with his back up, a man whose only defense left are his words and his words are always stronger than the lying, crushing weight of the world, stronger than all the racks and wheels which the cowardly invent to crush out the miracle of personality. If any man ever dared to translate all that is in his heart, to put down what is really his experience, what is truly his truth, I think then the world would go to smash, that it would be blown to smithereens and no god, no accident, no will could ever again assemble the pieces, the atoms, the indestructible elements that have gone to make up the world.

Did he know when he was furiously writing out those words seventy years ago that his page would explode in my face and wring tears out of my eyes? Is existential desperation required to write words that explode and wound? I want to feel desperate. I read Henry’s stare down on art and beauty and my world transformed.

I’m not scrounging for meals or food. I’m slathered comfortably into my suburban home surrounded by loving wife and children. My extended family wraps around the outside of my cozy shell of existence, insulating me from Henry Miller’s rotting Paris. Yet . . . Yet . . .yet I want to blaspheme. I want to rip the skin off of the face of society because underneath I don’t think I’ll find a skull and certainly no brain.

Ogden, Utah is the scrubbed up and prettified version of 1930's Paris, but it is worse than Paris, because the rot, the decay, the putrefication hides behind gleaming scrubbed houses and manicured lawns. Miller spoke and I finally inherited those X-ray glasses off of the back of the comic books and I can see. I was blind and now I can see. The facade of clean brick turns to dust to reveal a burned out, toxic waste site that would make the EPA run screaming from the room.

Maniacally we work. Manically we consume. The economy is rotting because we don’t consume, but the human locust leave nothing living behind its consumption, other than the rotting carapace shells of the growing insect and the defecating waste. Like good little locusts, every Monday we parade our consumptive trash to the curb so that the waste and destruction we are committing is toted away in a communal exercise of denial that is known as "garbage day." Consume and show your patriotism. Consume and be happy. Consume and consume, don’t tread on me, I’m eating my own tail. The serpent has come to the American Eden and offers up no fruit, but begs Eve and Adam to consume themselves out of existence. Obligingly we fall. Just make it look like paradise, even though it is a rotting swamp, and we will consume. We will walk through the Garden of Wal-mart and eat whatever the serpent would have us eat. If we keep eating the forbidden fruit of consumption, maybe we will never realize that we have left Eden and paradise is the fantasy of the deluded.

I’m a little monkey typing on a keyboard. Pounding letters onto a screen and no one is listening. The absurdity of me sitting here and typing in the cool fall light about the desperation I feel with existence, with the consumptive rot I see around me as I realize that the writer screaming at the world doesn’t have a place to stand and my body is drawn and quartered, pulled in four directions at once, leaving my heart to beat once or twice in the dust before it is done, but it is the only drawing and quartering ever done as a suicide. I can’t let go of my paycheck. I can’t let go of my comfort. My toes turn blue grasping at physical comfort and solace and at human acceptance. I grasp the reigns of the horses that tear me apart, even as I feel the legs and arms pulling out of their sockets and all I can think of is there something I could bite and grasp with my teeth that would pull me into five instead of four pieces – drawn and quintupted – with my head rolling along in the dust behind the apocalyptic horsemen that have graciously pulled apart my flesh, my teeth grinningly biting into the rope that pulled off my head.

Words have become just another commodity to be consumed and eating only makes the hunger grow worse. Lives and words repeat and the hunger grows because the soul is malnourished. The skeletal soul can’t take in nourishment in the Dante-ian hell of eating without any cessation of the starvation. Words slip down the mental gullet and slip out in an explosive diarrhea leaving emptiness and hunger – nothing sticks. Words are cheap. Here are my words. You have my words. You have nothing. I’ve read and read books and all the words are gone. I remember nothing. You’ll remember nothing of this.

Being human means that we forget. Being human means that we don’t really look at what our life is. Being human means that we don’t realize our life is nothing but a feast of death, that we live by eating other life. Being human is desperate. Being human is being mundane, predictable and agonizingly the same as everyone else. Being human is to decay and grow old and die. Being human is to hurt, an agonizing schism of opposites.

Being human means that we remember. Being human means that we can really look at what our life is. Being human means that we realize our life is nothing but a feast of death, but somehow we still manage to respect life. Being human is being hopeful. Being human is being unusual, unpredictable and gloriously unique. Being human is to grow and expand and become immortal. Being human is to feel exquisite pleasure, in an orgasmic ecstacy of opposites.

Mostly, being human means to covet the beauty and try to add to the beauty we find amongst the horror of existence. Thank you, Henry.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


So, negotiation power is not just based on brute physical or economic force. On occasion, power is derived from conviction. Power can be derived from an imbalance of desire. In the case of same sex marriage, the strength of the status quo is derived in part from how much those favoring same sex marriage desire to change the system. The desire for change – in and of itself – grants the status quo power, more than it deserves.

I know this is a little bit of an obtuse point, but it can be illustrated by a simple example from interpersonal relationships. I’m referring to "puppy love" power. The young, ardent admirer who is smitten with puppy love for the love object has submitted to the power of the love object, whether it be the teeny-bopper celebrity (and their marketers) or the kid next door. By desiring an object or a person, the power is bestowed upon another that can either provide or not provide the desired object. Once power is acquiesced, the conflict begins: Does he like me? Can I see him? Oh no, he doesn’t like me. I’ve had teenage daughters. I know how it goes.

The resolution of conflict, then, is in part surrendering the desire for a specific outcome. Being wedded to the outcome adds to or creates the conflict and prevents attempts to find alternate solutions. This is not to say that ardent support of a concept is inviting conflict, just that being wedded to a solitary outcome hampers discussion and problem solving. Demanding a set outcome is an invitation to conflict. Desire the outcome, but desire resolution more.

Invigorated is the emotion I’ve been feeling most since the election. The arguments and the conflicts remain the same, but simply having the hope that my voice could be heard makes me want to speak out more. While appearing counter-intuitive, an environment that encourages disagreement and dialogue is more likely to foster conflict resolution than an environment that discourages, limits or most importantly ignores dissent.

I hope that is the spirit of this blog – a forum for respectful and heated discussion that are argued from foundational principals. Conflict can’t be resolved unless you start from a place of agreement. Finding disagreement is easy. Finding the area of agreement within the disagreement is the first step towards resolution. Follow this first step with an understanding of the power dynamic of the disagreement and with an eye to areas of unused power or improperly surrendered power and resolution becomes more likely. The conflicts of fall and winter can progress seasonally into the resolution of spring and summer and the seasons of conflict and resolution can begin yet again.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


The crisp, sun-filtered air of November is in sharp conflict with my skin as I stepped out this morning to run a Saturday morning errand. The cold bite against my warm skin woke me up a little bit. The sunlight of the fall morning had a blinding clarity. I have a rental car, since my car lost a fender bender conflict with a Jeep. The tire of the jeep was above my bumper and managed to smash my hood and radiator back into my car’s engine. The rental car is new, less than five hundred miles and free of much of the debris and detritus that accumulates through living with a car. My imprint, in fact no human imprint, is present other than the thoughtful design. How do I know that holding down a number button on the radio will set that station? Yet I know it and I set about to program the stations off of the static the buttons are currently attached to.

I hit the search button. There is an interview with a Muslim women, who is stating that the West is incorrect if the West thinks that change in the Muslim world will come from the women. She said you don’t ask the prisoner for liberation. I thought I’d found NPR. I hadn’t. I had found a Christian talk station that was broadcasting its Friends of Israel program.

After the interview, the answer began with a news story about the Simon Wisenthal Museum of Tolerance that was being planned in Jerusalem that had temporarily been blocked by Muslim groups who had objected to the site of the museum when Muslim graves had been found on the construction site. The case had gone to the Israeli Supreme Court. The Center for Tolerance was embroiled in litigation. The irony resonated with me, bouncing off the ceilings of current events, personal discussions, politics, work, and relationships.

I’m afraid that most of our Museums of Tolerance are just like the Museum in Jerusalem – a Museum where we place our tolerance to look at and admire and a good place to battle to show just how tolerant we are. Tolerance is not passive. Tolerance requires a discipline of thought. You simply can’t tolerate, you also have to understand. True tolerance must include compassion and empathy for the opposing viewpoint. Tolerance requires looking for active solutions for the resolution of conflict. You can’t be tolerant when you are fighting. When the fight breaks out, tolerance has left the building.

The entire country has been living in conflict over the past few months during the Presidential elections. The conflicts have not dissolved with the election. Discourse has failed to be productive. Conciliation and cooperation have been lacking. I was encouraged by President-elect Obama’s appeal to find solutions and for cooperation. My impression is that the issues we need to deal with today – war, the economy, health care, energy and living wages – cannot be solved by ideological banter, but only by solutions outside traditional political thought and more complex than believed by the punditry.

A huge complication in this mix is the inability to resolve the most divisive issues, which are also not the most important. I find much of the concern over so-called moral issues or family values in politics to be counter productive and a colossal waste of time. The argument devolves into a discussion of what is right and what is wrong and completely avoids the areas in which the dispute could be resolved. Inevitably both sides fall into the conflict and dialogue breaks down. Conflict resolution requires patience and conviction. Anger simply cannot resolve conflict absent violence of the sword, the pen or the word. I find my words lapse into abstraction that would be better served by the concrete example.

The obvious choice for this discussion is the same sex marriage dispute that is raging on the front pages of the paper today. To me this isn’t even a discussion about marriage. The tolerant view is to allow everyone to hold their own belief in marriage. The real conflict and the arena for solution is not two diametrically opposed viewpoints, but a solution that allows equal protection for everyone under the laws of the land and also allows for the free exercise of religion. Much of the confusion lies in how religious morality is equated with civil enforcement. Laws that are necessary for an orderly society often coincide and overlap with religious doctrine and confusion ensues. Thou shalt not kill is punishable by prison, but is this dictated by religious belief? At this stage in our history, I think it is safe to say that the proscription against murder is accepted by believers and non-believers alike.

The State should exist to provide an environment that promotes diversity and peace, while protecting individual rights. As was echoed in Barak Obama’s acceptance speech, we need to work to create a "more perfect union." A union symbolizes inclusion, not exclusion. The moral standard I hold out for a government is the one that can be the most inclusive, a more perfect union. The arguments on divisive issues should start at this juncture and be argued from this viewpoint. The tenor and the effectiveness of the argument changes if both sides are arguing from common ground.

I know I make an assumption that everyone believes that the United States should work towards a secular Zion. (I mix my religious and political metaphors, partly as an illustration of how easy it is to confuse the two.) My experience in dealing with conflict is that you need to begin from a common belief. There is no resolution to "marriage is only between a man and a woman" versus "marriage is between two consenting adults regardless of gender." No amount of argument can resolve that dispute. The argument only becomes resolvable if you start from common ground and agreement.

Another problem in conflict resolution is the issue of power versus powerlessness. If a result is imposed on you by those who hold power, the instinct is to rebel and fight back, increasing the exercise of power against you. Power can come in the form of the police, the majority, money or simply the imposition of an opposing view. I happen to believe that the human spirit thrives more in an environment where it does not feel oppressed.

I’ve been thinking about power this morning, because I’ve always been anti-death penalty. This isn’t intended to be a discourse on the death penalty, but almost all defense lawyers I know are anti-death penalty, partly because they know that despite the procedural and Constitutional protections that create a phenomenal system, the flaws are numerous and profound. The headline in the paper this morning is that the Utah Supreme Court issued a ruling that the death penalty in Utah was in jeopardy because there isn’t competent legal counsel to represent the indigent defendants. My first thought was I should get qualified so I can handle such cases. My second and more lasting thought was of a defense attorney boycott. What would happen if the defense bar refused to defend death penalty cases? My idea was a power move, trying to grab power in a dispute in which argument and persuasion had failed. I like the idea still, because I’ve felt so powerless to stop State sanctioned killing. You win the death penalty cases by refusing to fight. It could be accomplished if like minded attorneys decided that it was time to make a stand.

To Be Continued . . .

Thursday, November 6, 2008

On Quality and Quantity

Obviously blogging is about attempting to create a voice and to be heard. I've been struggling with the need for quality in thought and quality in writing on a public blog versus the constant demand for attention that is the Internet.

Fundamentallly, the biggest constraint against having both quality and quantity is economic. To have high quality writing and high quantity writing simultaneously, the writing has to generate income or there has to be an alternate source of income. For me there is an alternate source of income -- my legal practice -- but it sucks up all my writing time.

I've been reading Henry Miller this week and I'm envious. I'm in awe of his writing. I'm in awe of his brazenness. I'm in awe of the beauty and clarity of his words. The symbol of the starving artist, creating the masterpiece out of poverty and degredation, is embodied by Miller in Paris in the 30s. I live in a different world. I used to think that I could only create out of lonliness and in fact my most prolific times have been when I was lonely. You can only read so much. You can only write so much. If you are reading this, I'm honored because I don't think many, if any, will.

Finite time equates to finite attention and that attention needs to be allocated. Yet, I'm finding a new burst of creative energy out of companionship and stability. It isn't loneliness that leads to creativity, but the attention. Being an artist and lonely is easy, because you don't have demands on the attention. Being an artist in comfort requires that effort be made to make time to give attention to the art, to the twist of the phrase and to the flow of the sentence.

This is the basis for my angst. I believe consistent quality will breed readers, but you also have to have the time to give the attention that is necessary to create quality. Maybe it is enough that I'm concerned, but a blog isn't a book.

I always had a goal to be a published author. I have been published in periodicals. I have yet to have a book published. I take five minutes and suddenly whatever happens to spew off my keyboard is suddenly published to where anyone can read it anywhere, but so what? Why the hell would you want to read this?

The artist isn't lonely. The artist isn't about attention. The artist is about the audience and connection.

I'm torn with by the pragmatism of my father and the seeming futility of this writing. The alterations that have been wrought on my psyche by reading other writer's words has been transformative, but the cumulative effect doesn't allow for any clear allocation of responsibility (other than the impact that one author had on me by getting me to marry her). So since marriage as an impact of my authorial endeavors is off the table, how can I even know if I have an impact?

I happen to be born into a time when the spigot on authorial output is opened so wide that writing now feels like -- to borrow a metaphor that I most recently heard from my wife -- peeing in the ocean.

Writing is in stark contrast to the concrete and judgmental world of the law. The words float out and no concrete words come back, just imtimations of effect, intimations of influence, intimations that at one time the words existed. Legal words come back and bite. Legal words move things -- money and people. No one is going to call me on the telephone because I made this blog post, but I can write a letter and I can almost guarantee the receipient will call me back if I'm threatening legal action and if my legal words are ignored, I bring in the guns to force the action.

Legal writing is visceral and immediate. Artistic writing is amorphous and ephemeral.

The harm of the legal word is immediate. The harm of the artistic word is unclear and morally ambiguous.

The law is words on crack, jacked up, wide-eyed and violent. The poem is words on anesthesia, dripping slowly over the cerebrum and insuring forgetfulness.

The quality (and quantity) of legal writing is easily quantifiable. Who ended up with the most money? Who is the most free? The quality (and quantity) of novels or poems isn't necessarily decided by the number of sales or the number of readers.

The power to immediately harm makes me fear legal writing more than the novel or poem. Yet, the words of belief, the words of fiction, the words of encitement, can in the most powerful forms transform millions. The legal word is the laser quided smart bomb, where art can be the atomic bomb annhilating nations.

Combine the two?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal."

Sometimes it only takes a sentence.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The First 100 Days

After any election, the new presidential administration sets up their plan for the first 100 days of governing. My inclination at this time is to create my own first 100 day plan for becoming politically active. I don't need to put together a transition team. I just need to allocate my energy. Some of the plans and ideas I have on my own first 100 day agenda (I'll start on January 20, 2009 as well, which gives me an extra eighty days) are the following items:

1. Reform of Utah's Pay Day Loan laws.
2. Amending Utah's Exemption Statute to allow for the earned income tax credit to be exempt from collection.
3. Lobby for appropriate reform of the bankruptcy code.
4. Encourage reform of much of the legislation from the Bush Administration that led to a reduction in civil liberties and ignored the Consitution.
5. Encourage sound health care reform policies on a state and national level.

From President-elect Obama's speech, I quote "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there."

What difference can one person make? I hope to find out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election 2008

I decided to start my non-anonymous blog today because of the election. I was thinking back to the events of my life over the past eight years and the elections of 2004 and 2000 were emotional pivot points. In fact, for my first post,I'm going to put up my thoughts and feelings from election night 2000 and juxtapose those thoughts with my reflections on eight years of the Bush Administration, which coincided with my eight years of being single.

Election Year 2000

November 7, 2000

I don’t want to feel emotion. I don’t want to be human. I don’t want to desire anything. I find myself craving a touch, a caress, a hug, and some comfort. I am tired of being hated and despised. I am tired of feeling like no one thinks like me. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I don’t like feeling so alone. Sometimes it gets so discouraging. I feel like I am Sisyphus and I’m not enjoying pushing the rock up the hill. What can I do to enjoy myself?


I wanted to vote today.
I wanted my voice to mean something.
I wanted someone to care about things the way I do.
I wanted help.
I wanted hope.
I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.
I wanted to make the world a better place.
They said I wasn’t registered.
My ex-wife was registered.
She didn’t vote.
She didn’t care.
My friend lost by 32 votes.
No one won that I wanted to win.
The world seems to be tilted against how I feel.
I was registered.
Why did they take me off the registration list?
What does it matter?
How could my solitary voice have even been heard?
Who would have cared?
When will I feel part of something again?
I feel myself going down.
I can’t stop it.
My electoral college is well short of 270.
I’m just losing.
The votes just aren’t there.
I’m a fourth party candidate in a two party system.
How can you even make a dent in this life?
What difference can one person make?
How do you get to a position to make a difference?
Why do I want to make a difference?
How many times can I take the voters saying they don’t want me?
How many times can I take the women saying they don’t want me?
Nothing seems to go the way I want it to.
I mess it up if it does.
I opted to be alone.
I can do alone.
Just don’t let me see everyone else together.
When will my storybook existence arrive?
It won’t.
No happily ever after.
I just can’t want or desire.
Then I won’t suffer.
No suffering if you don’t want anything.
I’m too tired.
I’m going to bed alone.
I live my life alone.
What is going on with me?
I thought I could believe in the symbol.
I thought I could resurrect.
I thought I could be saved.
I thought I could have faith.
I believe in something, I just don’t know what it is.
I don’t know what I believe in.
I’m supposed to find eternal life in the moment.
It is a pretty dismal eternity.
I suppose it could be worse, I could not be here.
Why would that be worse?
I wouldn’t hurt.
I’m so tired of hurting.
I’m so tired.
I’m so tired.
I’m so tired.
I’m so damn tired.
I kill myself for what?
A hope that sometime in the future I might have a little money.
I’m so tired I can’t even work.
Why the hell do I want money?
I don’t need money.
I can starve with the best of them.
I drive a car I didn’t pay for with a busted windshield.
I gambled in Vegas and lost.
I spun the dice and got snake eyes, a 1-1 on the 11th floor.
I landed on green in roulette.
I went bust in 21.
I lost it all.
Worst of all I lost hope.
I don’t know why I lost hope.
My desk is swamped.
I can’t even seem to get through it.
I’m being sued.
They want my money too.
I can’t even turn around without someone’s hand in my pocket.
I can’t sleep.
I can’t work out.
I can’t run.
I can’t function.
Everyone is mad at me.
I added 100 new clients and I don’t know how I am going to handle them.
I’m dying.
Day by dying day.
I go down with the sun.
When do I just blow up and give up?
I can’t believe that I can’t keep it together.
I can’t maintain this.
I can’t function.
I can’t do anything right.
My life is a joke.

I am paralyzed half of the time.
I’m supposed to instill confidence in my employees and I have none in myself.
Why am I appealing?
Why would anyone want me?
My money?
My ex has that.
My love?
My ex had it.
I’m not funny.
I’m not inspirational.
I don’t know anything.
Why am I in crisis again?
I haven’t felt like this forever.
I’m angry because I seem to be a biological animal, reacting to chemical reactions in my brain.
I’m not even autonomous.
I’m a chemistry experiment in some warped universe.
No one else even sees the world the way I do.
I don’t want to feel so damn alone.
I don’t want to be so damn tired.
I don’t want to only feel the cold of my sheets at night.
I don’t even have anyone to talk to.
I can’t let anyone read this.
It would be some manipulation on my part.
Some cry to just love me.
Hi, I’m in pain, please love me.
Nothing else seems to work.
I can’t get anyone to love or care about me by just being me.
I love women who sleep with other men.
I sleep alone.
A-1 one, solitary.
I don’t think anyone has cried about me.
I don’t know why.
A Republican president.
The end of the world approaches.
Maybe we can have a nuclear war and in a blinding flash of light – happiness.
In a moment, the pain would be gone.
Burned away in an explosion of instantaneous pain numbing pain.
I’ve been trained against greed.
I’ve been trained against pride.
I’ve been trained against lust.
I’ve been trained against loneliness.
I manage to buck my training.
I have a full day tomorrow.
How am I going to function?
I’m not even sleeping.
I can’t sleep.
One a.m. and I have to be in Salt Lake by 10 a.m.
I have so much to do before I leave.
I get to go to Salt Lake twice today.
If I’d planned, I could have gone and stayed.
I can just feel myself getting my ass kicked in court.
I feel like an idiot.
I like to live in my little fantasy world that I am good.
I like to live in my little fantasy world that I do a good job.
I like my fantasies.
I believe that there is something to have faith in, but I don’t know why or who.
I admire faith, envy it, and feel as Tolstoy in his Confession – how can they have faith?
I must understand.
My mind won’t let me not.
What am I?
I am a sad case of a human being.
I look around me and I look at the people living out their existences.
I don’t watch TV.
I don’t much care about anything.
I am worthless.
I could be gone and within a year no one would care.
And no one would care.
No one would miss me.
No amount of good I’ve done would count.
The pain I caused would live on.
Sometimes it is really hard to believe that my life has much meaning.
I want it to have meaning.
I don’t feel like it does sometimes.
I want to be loved and respected and I’m not.
I am a nut case.
Why is it so important for me to have my life mean something?
I look at the world and it is so large.
I am so insignificant.
It just seems bleak and pointless.
It is as if my brain is large enough to capture it all, but it can’t capture any meaning out of it.
Having some other human being say they want me, that would suffice.
Actions spoke louder than words.
Man, the actions are screaming.
Screaming that the only thing important is selfishness.

It makes me cry.
I don’t know why I’m upset over being unselfish.
I thought it was a virtue, but it feels mostly like a curse.
I’m unselfish.
I could list off the deprivations.
I indulge myself by buying books.
I have no house.
I have no legitimate car.
I give most of my disposable income to my ex-wife.
I pay her twice what I pay myself.
I’m getting fat.
I don’t run.
I’m out of shape and I can’t get the inertia to start again.
Oh yes, I write.
Whoppity Damn Do.
I write.
No one reads it.
It isn’t anything that makes any sense to anyone but me.
I write and write, hundreds of pages, but no finished product.
I am a writing masturbator.
Jacking off with the word processor.
Coming on the page.
Totally infertile.
No meaning growing out of this page.
I am alone.
I come back to that because I am.
I’ve written nearly six pages of sentences tonight.
This is one strange piece of writing.
I spout off and feel better.
It doesn’t feel better.
I just hurt.
I hurt.
I don’t feel better.
I’m just as alone as I was ten lines above.
Still all by my lonesome.
Sometimes it just feels overwhelming like there is no point.
Suicide is an option.
Not a very good one.
Most people would laugh at me suggesting that option.
Maybe I just want to be selfish.
Maybe if you don’t do any selfish acts, you manifest it in the most selfish act of all.
The thing is suicide doesn’t seem all that selfish.
The line seems so fine.
I could walk into the back room – climb out on the landing and jump.
Headlines and splatters.
11 stories right on to my head.
You won’t even grieve me for very long.
My therapist would get a kick out of this suicide note.
Mabye someone will read this and think I mean it.
I kind of do.
It scares me to go to work almost.
Funny, a kiss would make it all go away.
No one is going to be kissing me in the near future.
You start to feel unattractive after awhile.
I’m tired of taking all the blame.
I have big shoulders, but it is so heavy I’m about ready to dump and go on.
I’m just afraid I’ll get dragged over with the refuse.
George W. Bush – president.
Orrin Hatch – senator.
Mike Leavitt – governor.
Mark Shurtleff – attorney general.
Jim Hansen – Congressman.
Kent Winward – Alone.
Alone and with no popular vote.
I try and help people and I get killed.
The world is not set up to allow people to be kind.
Kind – hah.
Kind equals getting destroyed.
He’s nice, let’s sock it to him.
I’m so hurt.
But I’m kind -- damn it.
I need to scream.
It comes out silent.
Things just roll off my back.
Nothing bugs me.
I think about Rent.
I love that show.
The writer who can’t use words.
The songwriter who cannot hear, the filmmaker cannot see are my heros.
They are me.
I want to see that show.
I will go it alone.
I am always going to go it alone.
Here I am folks.
Here is your son.
I got 4.0 average in high school.
Cum Laude in college.
William Leary Scholar in Law School.
I’m flunking out of life.
I’m alone.
I piss everyone off around me.
So, here I am.
I am alone.
I am God.
I am the God I don’t believe in.
I don’t know how to put God at the center of my life.
I can put on a good show.
I can say that I feel something akin to your perceptions of God, but that I don’t believe in God.
I am a heretic.
I am a lunatic.
I am an unregistered voter on election day.
I am overwhelmed.
I can’t catch up.
I can go crazy.

Election Night 2008

I'm at home with my wife. I just put my son to bed after he fell asleep as I watched election results. My daughters are growing up. Bonnie voted today and is living on her own. Jessica is on the verge of adulthood and at her Mom's house. Megan is on her own and thriving in Salt Lake. Emma sprained her arm today and we spent an hour and a half in Instacare while she got x-rays and an arm splint.

I'm not crazy. I'm not overwhelmed. I voted early.

America is phenomenal. I'm crying.

This is unbelievably beautiful. I'm so -- I can't even articulate the beauty.

The symbolic significance is unreal.

All things can heal. Pain and discord can be reconciled.

I am not alone. I am surrounded by those I love and who love me. I voted.

The United States won. I won.


Yes, we can.

The election is won and the work begins. I wept because the work is hard. I wept because the work can work. I wept because ideals won out over fear. I wept because hope is beautiful. I wept because I felt joy. I wept because I do believe in this country and what it stands for -- liberty, freedom of press, freedom of religion, due process, trial by jury, no unlawful search and seizure, no cruel and unusual punishment, checks and balances on power, the power to vote, equal protection, and a right to an appeal. I wept for joy. I wept for the pain of others. I wept that I have a duty, an obligation to improve the country, to protect fundamental liberties and rights. I have a duty and I took an oath as an attorney to defend the Constitution.

I saw a man, essentially my age become President of the United States. Is this a right of passage I had forgotten about -- the confusion and unsettling emotion that part of the American Dream, to become President, has actually happened for another young boy born in the 1960s. And what have I done with my life? I am envious. I am in awe. I am honored that I got to vote for the man.

I am excited that we have a professor of Constitutional Law that is going to be our President. I am excited that we have a civil rights attorney as our President. I am excited to have someone who graduated from Harvard Law School as our President. I am excited to have an attorney as a President.

The spontaneous celebrations breaking out across the country -- Pennsylvania Avenue, Times Square, Grant Park, Harlem -- are the physcial manifestation of my emotions. I am the crowd jumping up and down outside the White House. I am packed into Time Square to ring in the new four years. I am black and white. I am America, torn and sad, unified and joyous.

I am 2000 and 2008. I cried both nights.