Suicide..after all the “townspeople assembled and leveled their stern regards.” -Hawthorne

 

pale blue dot blogThis morning’s London Times greeted us with news of a second political suicide, (literally not metaphorically) in the United Kingdom after a labour party leader’s transgressions with pornography were revealed.  Rather than face the tsunami of publicity now surrounding personal and morally repugnant deviance, he chose to end his life.

I am reminded of Hawthorne’s classic novel that unveiled some of the more sordid aspects of “rule of law” in colonial America. In modern times, the harsh scrutiny that faced Hester Prynne by “God-fearing gentlemen” seemed disproportionate, over-the-top.  But, as Hawthorne wrote, she accepted that “these were her realities, all else vanished.”

In our time too, the autumn of 2017 will be remembered as the time when for the many whose moral compasses lost their calibration, all else vanished.  In the United Kingdom, it is not the show business glitterati who are under the microscope, rather the politicos have been caught in the wave of revelations that have gripped America for the last several weeks.

Lest my words be conjured to signal sympathy for those whose transgressions are toppling their worlds, know this–that is hardly the case. But neither is it the case that I will blindly get caught up in the wave that would pronounce guilt by numbers. If one person speaks out, there exists the possibility of truth, if several speak out, there is the likelihood of truth and if many speak out, certainty has been achieved and any trial thereafter is a mere formality.

As Miss Prynne walked among the “gazes of unrelenting eyes” there was a critical difference between the scorn she was subjected to and the scorn greeting modern day transgressors. Her walk was part of a sentence after a trial–albeit a trial that may not have itself met all the transparency one has come to regard as the norm in a civilized society. But, nevertheless,  the public humiliation to which she was subjected was at the very least, meted out in the aftermath of the determination of guilt.

It should exceed worrisome when suicide starts to precede the words arrest, charge andcaveat-emptor trial.  Caveat Emptor…the distance traveled from accusation to guilt-by-public-opinion, in cases where other moral issues are at play (like say ideologies or religious beliefs) can become alarmingly short.

Finally one admonition, which sadly requires mentioning. I am a woman. I know that there is much merit in many of the voices that have bravely spoken out, and needn’t have to say more for you to accept that my perspective is an informed one. But, I am also a lawyer and when the integrity of the legal process is on the verge of compromise,  the depth of all our concern should be unfathomable.

 

 

 

Hidden Gender Agenda in Hallmark Christmas Movies?

What bad could possibly be said about Hallmark Christmas movies–the channel that markets itself as feel-good TV at Christmas time? The real question is–what’s right about Hallmark TV?hallmark_2Capture

The first inkling of the negative messaging embedded in Hallmark movies, occurred to me a few years ago. It was the recurring theme of a successful professional woman, who found herself in a dream as a happy housewife with husband and children, at first yearning to return to her old self, but in the end happy to toss aside her “present” for the wedded bliss of the “future.”  That was followed by more than a few movies where every professional woman was unwed, in an unsatisfactory relationship or demonstrated a distinct lack Christmas spirit as she paid attention to work pressures, deadlines and other office-related predicaments. The heroine in those stories lived in a cold urban environment, typically New York City. Those movies were complemented by a series of movies where lonely single city dwellers gave up their digs for a solo country Christmas. In those movies the woman typically ended up falling in love with the strong country type–usually a handyman, plumber or toy shop owner.

For lawyers, the next in the series offers a landscape of feel-good movies that crossed every legal line imaginable with lowly secretaries, assistants, window dressers, and nannies (often an errant elf)  falling in love with their bosses, bosses brother or bosses male assistant. In half of those scenarios, the current girlfriend is a lackluster unspirited socialite, who gets dumped for the morally anchored but lowly secretary, housekeeper, hotel maid or nanny. Those are followed by nefarious land-grabbing developer movies who “steal” the deal of an aging Christmas tree farm, wonderland or town and extract a pound of flesh or worse, to un-seal the deal. Nevermind that the lawyers in those movies are portrayed as unsympathetic dumb slugs who can’t muster up the creative intelligence to negotiate the duped client’s way (its always a woman) out of the clearly unscrupulous contract.

Then there is the class of movies where a series of late twenty-something or early thirtysomething women can’t face their families and parents over the holidays without a date. Those offers solutions for these sad sack young women that range from making an intimate pact with total strangers they bump into on the street  (with whom they ultimately fall in love) to outright “boyfriend” kidnapping. There was one uncharacteristic exception to that class involving a prosecuting attorney who brings home a woman (state’s witness) in his custody awaiting an important trial where she is expected to testify against a crime boss. He parades her amidst his family on Christmas day as his girlfriend. She is loose, wears tight clothing all featuring fake animal fur and a variety of animal prints.  Each of the movies in this genre shares the common ending of coming clean to the families, only to have the main character eventually fall in love with their stranger dates or custodial witness.

There are others–which no surprise loosely fit into one or all of the categories above, the stranger in the coffee shop who ends up being a Prince from Askovia. The handsome prince keeps his royal roots under wraps but nearly every story involves a stodgy butler, a pompous mother and occasionally an errant sibling (brother) who collects cars and blonds. These nearly all disparage those who do not demonstrate the requisite enthusiasm for Christmas who are,  by coincidence, from the ranks of higher economic or social status.

Lastly, there are the sad widower movies. These too cross lines across the genres already described. The widowers are left to raise a daughter while the widows are left behind by their deceased spouses to single-parent young sons. Each finds happiness with mom’s new love. The men saviors will compete against a rich city slicker but the fellow who works in a soup kitchen, is a kind stranger in an airport, cook or restaurant dishwasher, will win her heart out every time.

Time constraints prevent me from writing about the miserable lady lawyers, lonely valueless women who date superficial greedy guys or lady doctors who leave California to head out to the-middle-of-nowhere Alaska to run a clinic.  And for those of you who do not fall into any of these hapless categories–take a second look. Do you flood your house with lights at Christmastime? Beware, if you don’t, your neighbors might just be talking about you behind your back!

So what’s it all saying? Women who work hard, are missing out. Young upwardly mobile women who put work first are misguided. Single parents cannot lead rewarding lives. Widows and widowers will live unsatisfied until they find a new mate. Those in the lower economic social strata can and should aspire to marry princes and all guys who run tree farms in Vermont are handsome, morally sound and good marriage material. For those of you who live in southern climes, Sorry–Christmas cannot be truly appreciated without snowflakes but if you kiss your significant

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other, preferably under a mistletoe, while looking at all the bright lights lining your roofline, there’s a chance you might capture the Christmas spirit, Hallmark style.

For all TV-on-while-you’re-working-all-night-long insomniacs out there, they say Frasier reruns will resume in January. I’m counting the days.

Blockchain, ICOs and life

Bitcoin. Blockchain. ICO. Tokens.

There…possibly that has caught the attention of search engine optimization algorithms.

Today Facebook queried whether I’d like to share my facebook memory of Steven Hawkings WSJ article in 2010, which I admit to finding depressibitcoinng then and, having read it again today, now too. Recently my personal life has me regularly dealing with end-of-life conversations and work has brought me into the world of ageing coupled with questions about whether those who are ageing, require an international instrument to protect their human rights. While you may not be sixty or even “near it”–if you believe anything, believe this, it’s closer than you think.

Which brings me to the sandbox of the younger generation. Today China and South Korea apparently outlawed coin/token offerings–“ICOs” for those in the know. I read this blog, Legal circles that touch my world are full of interest and concern over  ICOs banned in China and South Korea, wondering, who will be next?

Then there is Einstein who said:

“The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

and then Hawkings 2010 WSJ article:

Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.

which brings us to bitcoin.   Again, gratefully, the world has created a new “it”–for lawyers to wrap their heads around, enforce and challenge regulation of, litigate over and offer opinions on.  Thank the god that Hawkins insists does not exist (for if he did (exist) surely he would have stood in the way of tokens and coin offerings). Thank goodness for the theory of spontaneous generation of things that in its own special way mires mankind in a system that depends upon infinitesimally synched synapses offering the collateral benefit of a world of problems for lawyers to unravel–in this case, the regulation of shadow currencies.

When my son was little we indulged him with collections of ancient Roman coinage. Now in our ageing years, we assemble jars of pennies and pocket change. The question is this: Will I live to see the day when grandparents log onto their ledgers to buy the grandkids presents with saved up bitcoin…and will the next United Nations convention protect the right of those ageing to wheel and deal with shadow currencies with reckless abandon? Only time will tell.

How to Teach Strategic Thinking

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Recently in a conversation with a faculty at a reputable law school, I was asked what I saw as the biggest shortcoming in recently graduated young lawyers. I shot the answer out lickety split–no question about it–they completely lacked the ability to think strategically. The question that followed was–well, one naturally to be expected: Would you be willing to conduct a lecture as part of a post graduate offering, on how young lawyers can learn to think strategically?  Again, my answer was far too quick. Flooded with the a rush of self congratulation over the invitation, the answer oozed out of me as smoothly as a salted  caramel from chocolate on a hot day…” I’d love to.”

Thirty days into the process of designing the itinerary for the self-discovery journey to strategic thinking, apropos of the subject, I find myself murmuring: What was I thinking? Was I thinking at all? One thing for certain there was nothing measured or tempered about my enthusiasm to take on the challenge. Dare I say–nothing strategic about that decision.   So on this glorious weekend summer’s day  in a small Connecticut village that New Yorkers kill themselves to get to negotiating I-95 every Friday night, I sit. At my computer. An intentionally made-to-look-retro fan keeps me cooled while its rattle drowns out  bird tweets and competes with gentle breezes. “Help Me Rhonda” fittingly plays in the background.

In the last thirty days, I have spent most of my discretionary time reading everything in sight and googling every conceivable variation of the phrase “how to teach strategic thinking”…to adults, to millennials, nay even children. After querying  colleagues and daughter MBA candidate came the flood of recommendations… Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” and Covey’s classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” A trip to the book store lured me with no fewer than ten different volumes of HBR (Harvard Business Review) compilations–promoted as “must reads.”  I got the one on “managing people” possibly influenced by  the tag line “If you read nothing else on managing people, read these definitive articles.”  Sold.

So, in these intervening weeks since the caramel oozed out of my chocolate,  my world has become an exploration of mastering outside the box inventiveness, analyzing human effectiveness and managing intuitions and interventions.

For those of you who are regular followers, this is the part of my blog where I pull something out of the hat of my past and draw an connection that most assuredly seems to have little to do with the blog topic. My personal paraprosdokian literary widget.
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Not too long ago  on my way home from work, I passed Tate Modern and read a poster about an exhibit of Matisse’s cutouts. It was there, on the south bank looking up at the billboard promoting the exhibition, where I  learned, for the first time, that my favorite Matisse art piece was actually a collage fashioned from cut out pieces of paper. How did I not know that in the 40 years since my first encounter and subsequent love affair with the piece? Now come to find out, he didn’t paint or even draw my favorite blue nude–he pasted it.    I believed I knew a Matisse  painting when I saw one.  Turns out, I didn’t. As for pornography and knowing it when I see it–I’m going to have to reconsider that as well.  Which brings us to strategic thinking…right now I can’t quite pin down for you what it is or how you can acquire a knack for it, but I can tell you this: if you work with me, trip up and make that strategic fail and I can be all over you like a wet t-shirt.

 

 

 

 

The lawyers will save us all.

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. -John Adams

Are we there yet? Seems we’re closer than ever before.

Those of us old enough to know, know that we have been here before. Republican vs. Democrat.  Liberal vs. Conservative. Vitriol. Slander. Venom…are words that come to mind almost daily. And, let’s not glorify the past too much, politics was as dirty then as it is today–only then, they settled disputes in a kindlier gentler way–in a gentleman’s duel which inevitably left one disputant dead. Death to the finish yesterday, today a musical. Oh, the irony. But, I digress.

I blame the conservatives. I blame the liberals. I blame the gun lobby.  I hold responsible the patrons for immigrants, refugees, women’s rights and right to lifers.   I blame them all because, as I watched them all march around DC this last week, it was clear that we have become a nation of private and special interests all jockeying for attention to our cause. Many, if not all,  have banded together in the “enemy of mine enemy is my friend,” fashion and our newly elected President is the glue that binds them.

By some lucky coincidence all the liberal interests number about 50 million and the conservative interests too, 50 million. In the middle possibly only 5 million or so who don’t really care to enter this very particular fray–because there interests weren’t at play in this go-around. There is real comfort in those numbers because it says that for every person whose voice is heard, there is a person of opposite view. In the 60’s there was a popular poster that made its way into every flower child’s dorm room “You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.”  The incorrect assumption in this last election was that which failed at interpreting the silence of 50 million people as everything other than the heartfelt righteous indignation it was. And the people, I might add, are good, god fearing, country loving people. Good like you and I good.

Lifelong friendships are beginning to stress and crack.   It is as if there were only one view and any other,  an anomaly, the unfathomable result of millions of New York’s  rats and cockroaches  who found their way into voting machines (outside of NY) and, when no one was looking, voted.    There’s the rub. The 50 million whose candidate did not win the election would have one believe there is no other side. There is but one correct world view, theirs,  as improbable and illogical as that sounds.   Those who adhere to a values and priorities different from their own are, simply and utterly, in one Facebook pal’s words, “despicable.”  In the past, thanks to the poetry of the ultimately tarnished Spiro Agnew,  yesterday’s “deplorables” had an equally caustic descriptive for the liberals:  “an effete corps of impudent snobs.”

And, there we have it. The dance  between the “arrogant intellectuals” and the “deplorables”  has begun.   For the fourth time in my short life, a Republican has been elected President. For the second time, those whose candidate did not succeed have hit the streets. Both times, liberal democrats. Both times, I stayed home.

This weekend, the lawyers came out–headed to the airports not to protest, but to attempt in their very special way,  to temper the impact of an extraordinary Presidential fiat with rule of law.  Thank god for the lawyers. Rule of law demands this: 1) that we have lawfully transitioned to a new president  whose ideologies may differ in extreme ways from yours and 2) we have a system designed to tolerate that and check and balance it. Our judges and courts are there for a reason. Let us put our faith and stock in the system–the system that gave 50 million people a voice and elected Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America and the same system that will provide endless opportunities for the other 50 million to challenge it and him when they deem it necessary. I accept this. I accept the current holder of the office of President of the United States and I accept peoples’ right to work with the system to change those actions which they consider constitutionally offensive. I envision there may even be times when I join in those actions.

I will not unfriend you, as perhaps you will me when you read this. And, if that’s the case, then I am really very sorry about the sad state of affairs in our world. I can only then ask this: Let us not wait until we are on our deathbeds, like Jefferson and Adams, to mend the fence upon which our friendship has been built all these last several years.

One Day I had an idea…

How many times have you said to yourself, I wish I had thought of that, or even worse, you did think of i14317367_10154423018650406_541273375062655995_nt, but someone else made it happen?

Given the abundance of naysayers, critics, skeptics and knowitalls that abound in our world today, it’s no wonder that people find themselves filled with regret that they hadn’t launched that start up in the garage, or taken that chance and put all their resources into a basket they were told couldn’t hold a feather.

Take heart, it takes energy and drive beyond anything normal, bordering on the obsessive and compulsive, to push past the many authorities who are sure that you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t have the credentials and what it takes to make it succeed. It takes an unfathomable amount of that je ne sais quoi, to push through the “who does she think she is?” and “how can he possibly think he has what it takes to do that?”

In those early days when the idea was a glint in my eye,  the naysayers were abundant. Uninvited, they crashed my party–coming out of the woodwork everywhere: “A country lawyer creating an international entity…impossible!”  “A woman heading into war zones…ridiculous!” And, the worst of all, ” Creating an organization that depends on the generosity of lawyers…will never succeed.” Nay, in “Et tu, Brute” fashion, even my own family was not bashful expressing their extraordinary skepticism.

To be honest, the job didn’t seem as daunting in the prospect as it became  in the actuality. Many I’m sure share the experience of passion and clarity of vision trumping (pun intended)  perceived obstacles and challenges.  But, like the tortoise who plugged along through the race, every day before me soon enough morphed into a day viewed through the rear view mirror. And, naturally enough, with each stride I moved closer to converting the vision into a reality. Which brings us to today.

I once had an idea. It was that lawyers young and old would travel to regions of the world where the practice and implementation of laws was challenging for any of a variety of reasons. And–  lawyers from around the world with the time, energy, resources and inclination to give back, if given the opportunity, would.

It is said revenge is sweet. The same is often also said about success. I’m pleased to report that both adages are true. For those who provided the rock upon which I chiseled what has become “my story”– thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I leave you with this:

 In this life, your narrative is just that, yours. Now go. Write it.

 

Breaking the fourth wall

4th-wall“Oh, you’ve gotten tickets for the inauguration…what a thrill. I’m so happy for you.”

These words were not said to me, nor do I think that they ever will be directed towards me, for you see, I voted for Mr. Trump, now President-elect. Even as I pen this blog, I have some trepidation. Those colleagues and friends, for whom I have only the greatest respect, will  judge me harshly. I have some confidence that their high regard for me will lessen, in some instances, substantially. Forget that I have the benefit of my own personal interaction with the man, as my guide, they will not want to hear that, nor will it affect their opinion of me, or of him or those other 60+ million people who voted for him.

The words in the opening sentence of this blog, reflected my actual delight that a good, intelligent, well respected colleague of mine obtained tickets to President Obama’s second inauguration. She was deliriously happy, and I was happy for her. I had my own feelings toward the man, but that did not get in the way of my realization that millions of intelligent people placed their faith and hope in him and his capacity to deliver hope and change. My candidate did not win. I was disappointed. As an advocate for rule of law around the world, it did not elude me that like charity, belief in the the rule of law and the orderly of transfer of power, “starts at home.” And so, with my long list of reservations, I demonstrated publicly and privately, respect for the man we have called Mr. President these last eight years.

Now the scene switches. The tables have turned. It is I who am not only decidedly not deplorable, but a thoughtful and intelligent person, also hoping for change. I watch with quiet contentment as my preferred candidate begins to make his way to the White House. As a resident of the east coast, there are few places where one can publicly display the pleasure at that prospect.  Make no mistake, I am disappointed  that I will likely not see a woman be President of the United States in my lifetime. But, I am equally determined never to vote along any line, party, race or gender, simply to break a ceiling or other metaphorical barrier.

Speaking of barriers, comes the perfect segue to the title of this blog:  The fourth wall…a dramatic convention often used in pantomime or children’s theater, rarely broken without artistic purpose. Once a tool  used to “heighten the comedic tone of a show” last week’s fourth wall break in the Broadway show Hamilton instead  reflects something of a tragic milestone for democracy. Recognizing the futility of discourse on the subject, I leave you with this quote from Toni Morrison’s Beloved:

“He licked his lips. ‘Well, if you want my opinion-‘
‘I don’t, ‘ She said. ‘I have my own.”