|From The Editor
On a beautiful warm Saturday, the parking lot at the Huntington Library has overflowed and a line of people are walking in the street towards the library entrance.
Joining them, I noticed that the curbs on both sides of the streets all around the library, except for those touching its grounds directly, are posted with "no-parking" signs on wood stakes jammed into the lawns at regular intervals.
The manicured lawns -- I mean they are perfect, mint green, not a blemish, freshly mowed -- are in front of palatial estates that are like ambassadorial residences, enormous, grand entrances, flagpoles, one oddly flying a Brazilian flag, and Romanesque facades to modern-day castles.
A friendly Huntington employee -- the library's volunteers and staff have been unfailingly pleasant so far -- is counting the number of people walking in.
I ask him about the signs and his open expression turns to a slight smile.
He says the signs are indeed official, put there by the City of San Marino, and they are indeed temporary, only there when the great unwashed or just the non-ridiculously wealthy want to take a stroll through the gardens on a sunny day.
The employee says in careful terms, but still with an amused expression, that the locals have a lot of money and so they have influence with the city. He adds that the local government has a lot of community meetings.
So streets that are public, owned by the public and paid for by the public of California and the nation, are nevertheless treated as the private property of those who live alongside them. Because the rich do not like the rest of us that much, especially our presence anywhere on public ways close to where they live.
The amazing thing, because I have seen it plenty of times, is that the city officials don't stand up to it. They serve their masters.
But of course we and a true flood of people are walking onto the grounds once owned by the family of a fabulously wealthy railroad tycoon. And the gardens are definitely open to the public which is all over the place, speaking Chinese, Korean, Russian and of course a smattering of English, walking through the rose gardens, snuggling on benches, playing with the carp.
I had been almost forced a couple weeks ago to visit the Huntington, which is just a few blocks from my apartment in Pasadena -- funny thing, I had avoided going for years because I heard you had to make a parking reservation and the whole thing just sounded so uptight.
But none of that was true and $120 got me a year-round pass for two.
On Saturday, I wanted to check out the current exhibition, which included a chest of drawers for a woman who was killed by French soldiers allied with local Indians. Nearby is the painting of a serious, busty woman who is known, we are told, for having been courted by Andrew Jackson before he "withdrew his attention."
Another painting depicts a snow sleigh turned on its side in front of a tavern, with a man and woman spilled out. On the ground in front of their out-stretched hands is a bottle and a newspaper, clearly titled the Pittsburgh Gazette.
The explanation on the wall says the painter despised the Gazette because of its editorial position advocating compromise with the South during the Civil War.
The true objective of the day trip is a little café in the Chinese Garden where we can have a beer next to a little lake. As the tables fall into shadow and the day wanes, a brightly colored male duck starts bobbing his head rapidly, all the way up and down, as though spring-loaded, while a dun-colored female does the same.
Quick as you please, he paddles around behind her and practically drowns her as he does a rapid and frenetic bit of business. Immediately afterwards, he stretches his full torso up out of the water and spreads his colorful wings wide. Another male paddles straight over and also spreads his wings, as the female demurely swims away.
On the way out, a fit, blonde woman walking in front of us explains to her early college-age son and his three friends that Henry Huntington first bought the grounds from a rancher, then built the enormous residence, and then built the library to house his books and artwork.
Leland Stanford, she continued, was also made rich through the railroads. He and his wife Jane established the university for the youth of California after their son died at a young age.
Jane was "very emancipated," she tells the boys, and as a result the university admitted women from the time it opened, which was very uncommon at the time. She added that the school was a pioneer in the development of moving pictures and it was at Stanford that it was proved that a horse does not touch the ground when in mid-gallop.
That was the only part where the boys seemed interested.
As we walked back along the street to our car, at the end of a beautiful, sunny day, I noticed that all the no-parking signs were gone. They were no longer needed, the public was leaving.
"This country never did, nor never shall
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror
But when it first did help to wound itself."
Pardon me for quoting from "King John," the worst play Shakespeare ever wrote, but as my old music professor Fritz Kramer used to say, "Second-class is very good."
When the Republican Party and the U.S. Senate told Iran and the world that the president of the United States cannot be trusted, did they wound the United States?
Now that white policemen have become movie stars for killing black men, and their fellow officers keep arresting and brutalizing people for taking pictures of it, must we allow them to keep wounding us?
Now that our Republican Congress has appointed Binyamin Netanyahu Secretary of State for the Middle East, how badly have they wounded us?
Now that the Supreme Court has declared that money is speech, so long as it's thrown at politicians, does it mean that people with no money to "donate" can't talk to politicians? (That is what it means.)
How grievously has the Supreme Court wounded us?
And now that Florida is sinking into the sea, though the Republican Party has declared that global warming is a fantasy of "science" - a silly delusion we can extinguish by paying Republicans to strangle scientists - because oil and gas and coal companies have so much money - excuse me, I mean speech - how much longer until our East Coast lies at the foot of the conquering sea?
Pardon me for singing an old Pete Seeger song, but "Which side are you on, boys? Which side are you on?"
Perhaps it's unfair to expect Speaker of the House John Boehner or Nebraska Sen. Tom Cotton - immaculately dressed breasts puffed out, begging for money, underpants soaked with oil and platitudes - to approach Shakespeare at his worst.
But let me cite Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:
"Let us bathe our hands in blood up to the elbows, and besmear our swords; then walk we forth even to the market-place, and waving our red weapons o'er our heads, let's all cry 'Peace, freedom and liberty!'"
Nah, you do it. I'll watch.
Hey, it worked for Brutus. For a little while.
And he was the noblest Roman of them all.
Marcus Antonius said so after Brutus ran onto his own sword. And Mark Antony was Brutus' mortal enemy.
Politics was serious back then. Not a game, like it is today.
Brutus killed himself because he saw there was no way to undo his horrible mistake.
He finally understood that when he killed Caesar, he'd turned over his country to be torn apart by ... itself.
So Brutus ran onto his sword.
That's not a sign of nobility, or of guilt: It's a sign of class.
It's a sign of good taste.
In this new millennium, we have the most tasteless Congress in the history of the world. They're as bad as Putin's congress. They're as bad as Caesar's. And it's all done in the light of day.
I don't have much money, and I never give it to politicians, so I don't expect them to listen to me. Still, I'd like to say this to all 535 members of Congress:
Stop wounding our country, you selfish S.O.Bs.
Stop bathing other people in blood and besmearing your imaginary swords with other people's blood while crying "Peace, freedom and liberty!" in the marketplace.
Show some class, you overpaid, self-seeking babies. Admit it when you've done wrong:
Your stupid, Oedipal self-seeking wars;
Your greedy truckling to Big Oil, Big Guns, to Big God As He Appears On TV;
Your shameless pandering for money;
Your insane selfishness.
Listen to me, Congress:
Money is not speech.
Freedom is not war.
Liberty is not unchaining millionaires and corporations that never wore chains, and can't wear them, and never will, to put other people in chains.
Poetic license - which the Department of Homeland Security granted me in a very expensive license, which the FISA court prohibits me from revealing, because I bribed the judges with words - allows me to say, this one time, before they haul me away:
All of the 301 Republicans and 234 nominal Democrats in Congress today are just walking shadows, strutting their few hours upon the stage, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
|From The Courts
Rarely a day goes by when I don't spot an article or a blog or a tweet or a whisper about the difficulty of balancing career and family.
Obviously, this is usually hardest for women. Do you single-mindedly pursue that partnership or do you take a "mommy track" and give up the untold riches that go to babyless guys?
It seems like a tough decision.
But is it really?
There's an obvious solution to this dilemma but, for some reason (perhaps a legal reason), no one is talking or writing about it.
Fortunately, I'm here to help.
This is what you do: Put the baby to work.
There is absolutely no reason why a healthy baby can't earn a living right alongside his or her parent.
The mommy/daddy-track - producing useful working babies - may be the fastest way to a partnership because infants can do many useful things in your office.
Client relations is the most obvious task for babies.
Picture a client walking into your office and seeing, instead of a secretary or concierge, a baby.
Instead of an angry or wary client, you've got a smiling client - a client not paying attention when you explain your fees.
This alone could double or triple your firm's revenue.
Consider how useful a baby would be during depositions.
A surreptitious, well-timed pinch to the baby can stop damaging statements cold. This is much more effective than objecting, and is likely to derail any opponent's chain of thought.
Babies are also ideal for demonstrations. If you have an obstreperous, unreasonable client, simply bring in a baby and say something like this: "Of course, we'll do it your way, but this is how the court will see you ..."
I know what you're thinking. What happens when you have to fire the baby because he's grown into a toddler? Won't there be a diaper rash of age discrimination suits?
Not at all. You don't have to fire them. Older children also have many uses.
Have you ever tried to argue with a 2-year-old? Put them in charge of settlement negotiations.
Talks will end quickly and your contingency fees will grow exponentially.
Once the kids are old enough for preschool (where they won't go because they're working for you), they become the firm's tech support.
Children can also check boxes on form complaints. I've never understood why adult time is wasted on those things.
But plan ahead. Children eventually turn into adults. What do you do with them then?
Some, of course, will leave voluntarily and live on the streets. Many others will seek therapy and/or file specious class actions.
Those who remain have a vital task: producing more babies for the firm.
It's the cycle of law firm life.
Solace for the childless: Some of you now are rightly thinking that law firms without infants or adults willing and capable to produce them will be at a disadvantage.
You're right, of course, but there are workarounds.
For example, if you know you're going into a settlement conference with a particularly fierce toddler, you can include an experienced, no-nonsense nanny on your negotiating team.
When talks get heated, demand a timeout.
Childless firms can adopt. There are many shelter babies in need of a good home and a law firm is better than the foster care system.
There's also artificial insemination and surrogate mothers.
Imagine putting together DNA from your most aggressive and moneymaking partners.
Then imagine putting together DNA from your meekest associates who do all the research and never complain.
We may be looking at an era of uber law firms.