05 Juni 2008

Pick Your Poison

This has been reprinted on the Internet numerous times, but I've never laid claims to originality. Professor Alexander Demandt’s Der Falls Rom (1984) (Rome's Fall (1984)) summarizes the myriad theories that have been posited to explain the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a subject which perforce torments those of us living in latter-day empires whose might grows wobbly (first the British--note their obsession with the classics and Rome--and now we ourselves). I've put the ones that seem most apposite to us in bold:

Abolition of gods, abolition of rights, absence of character, absolutism, agrarian question, agrarian slavery, anarchy, anti-Germanism, apathy, aristocracy, asceticism, attacks by Germans, attacks by Huns, attacks by nomads on horseback.

Backwardness in science, bankruptcy, barbarization, bastardization, blockage of land by large landholders, blood poisoning, bolshevization, bread and circuses, bureaucracy, Byzantinism.

Capitalism, change of capitals, caste system, celibacy, centralization, childlessness, Christianity, citizenship (granting of), civil war, climatic deterioration, communism, complacency, concatenation of misfortunes, conservatism, corruption, cosmopolitanism, crisis of legitimacy, culinary excess, cultural neurosis.

Decentralization, decline of Nordic character, decline of the cities, decline of the Italic population, deforestation, degeneration, degeneration of intellect, demoralization, depletion of mineral resources, despotism, destruction of environment, destruction of peasantry, destruction of political process, destruction of Roman influence, devastation, differences in wealth, disarmament, disillusion with state, division of empire, division of labour.

Earthquakes, egoism, egoism of the state, emancipation of slaves, enervation, epidemics, equal rights (granting of), eradication of the best, escapism, ethnic dissolution, excessive aging of population, excessive civilization, excessive culture, excessive foreign infiltration, excessive freedom, excessive urbanization, expansion, exploitation.

Fear of life, female emancipation, feudalization, fiscalism, gladiatorial system, gluttony, gout, hedonism, Hellenization, heresy, homosexuality, hothouse culture, hubris, hyperthermia.

Immoderate greatness, imperialism, impotence, impoverishment, imprudent policy toward buffer states, inadequate educational system, indifference, individualism, indoctrination, inertia, inflation, intellectualism, integration (weakness of), irrationality, Jewish influence.

Lack of leadership, lack of male dignity, lack of military recruits, lack of orderly imperial succession, lack of qualified workers, lack of rainfall, lack of religiousness, lack of seriousness, large landed properties, lead-poisoning, lethargy, levelling (cultural), levelling (social), loss of army discipline, loss of authority, loss of energy, loss of instincts, loss of population, luxury.

Malaria, marriages of convenience, mercenary system, mercury damage, militarism, monetary economy, monetary greed, money (shortage of), moral decline, moral idealism, moral materialism, mystery religions, nationalism of Rome’s subjects, negative selection.

Orientalization, outflow of gold, over-refinement, pacifism, paralysis of will, paralysation, parasitism, particularism, pauperism, plagues, pleasure-seeking, plutocracy, polytheism, population pressure, precociousness, professional army, proletarization, prosperity, prostitution, psychoses, public baths.

Racial degeneration, racial discrimination, racial suicide, rationalism, refusal of military service, religious struggles and schisms, rentier mentality, resignation, restriction to profession, restriction to the land, rhetoric, rise of uneducated masses, romantic attitudes to peace, ruin of middle class, rule of the world.

Semi-education, sensuality, servility, sexuality, shamelessness, shifting of trade routes, slavery, Slavic attacks, socialism (of the state), social tensions, soil erosion, soil exhaustion, spiritual barbarism, stagnation, stoicism, stress, structural weakness, superstition.

Taxation, pressure of terrorism, tiredness of life, totalitarianism, treason, tristesse, two-front war, underdevelopment, useless diet, usurpation of all powers by the state, vaingloriousness, villa economy, vulgarization.

More PC Run Amok

PC seems to be an affliction common to the well-meaning but poltroonish Europeans and Americans alike. Apparently being Eurocentric is now verpönt in Europe itself. From England's Daily Mail:

Police in Cornwall told a witness they could not use the phrase "gypsy skirt"to describe the long floating skirt that someone involved in an incident had been wearing and instead insisted that it had to be referred to as a "traveller skirt".

Mothercare changed the ending of Humpty Dumpty on their nursery rhyme CD in case children found the original version upsetting. After the traditional ending "All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again" they added "Humpty Dumpty counted to ten then Humpty Dumpty got up again."

Trapeze artists were told by insurers to wear hard hats while performing following the implementation of the European Union's Temporary Work at Heights directive.

The Department of Trade and Industry produced a six-page, 2,000 word document detailing the placement of every yucca plant in Whitehall.

An invitation was issued for a fund-raising event inviting people to come along and share a "Ploughperson's Lunch".

Schools in Edinburgh were told that the scores in football matches should be re-set to 0-0 at half time if one team was five goals or more ahead. Also, the losing side would be able to field two extra players in the second half.

A long-term sufferer of heart disease who planned to bathe in maggots outside a British Heart Foundation shop for charity was told by Hastings Borough Council that he would contravene the authority's Animal Welfare Charter and could be prosecuted if a maggot was caused injury or unnecessary distress.

A children's holiday club had a pirate theme but suggested that helpers did not wear eye patches or hooks on the ends of their arms in case this caused offence to anyone who was disabled.

Staff on a training course were told that if a colleague said that he was going for a 'quick half', for some 'amber nectar' or for a 'swift bevvy' he could well be an alcoholic.

Officials at the Cheddar Caves in Somerset replaced the term "Before Christ" with "Before Present".

The Hart Male Voice Choir was told not to sing the line "Birthday greetings, bottle of wine", when they performed Paul McCartney's song When I'm Sixty Four, in case they caused offence to Jehovah's Witnesses who do not recognise birthdays.

The signs on the Mersey Tunnel were changed from Manned and Unmanned to Staffed and Unstaffed in case they upset women.

The Bishop of Hulme called for the hymn "I Vow to Thee, My Country" to be banned because he thought it was an example of the dangerous increase in nationalism in Britain.

MP Philip Davies in his maiden speech to Parliament said: 'Whoever said 'the customer is always right' never worked for Asda. I encountered the customer who accused Asda of being racist towards Irish people because we sold "thick Irish sausages". Trying to persuade her that "thick" related to the sausages and not to the Irish was beyond me.'

Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax banned visitors from cooing at new-born babies following a staff advice session which highlighted the need for respect and dignity towards patients. Signs were displayed in the hospital saying, "what makes you think I want to be looked at?"

The director of education at Wirral Council told staff not to describe children as gifted or talented because he thought this suggested exclusiveness.

The Board if Visitors at Wakefield Prison suggested that inmates should no longer be addressed by their surname but as "Mr" in response to complaints that the prisoners were being shown a basic lack of respect.

A puppeteer in Broadstairs was rapped for portraying Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein as villains in his Punch and Judy show.

Police in London were told they could no longer refer to people as a good egg or a bad egg as it could be construed to be racist.

Council staff banned a woman from giving daffodils to librarians because the colour of the flowers could be construed as a sign of support for the Liberal Democrats, whose logo is yellow. Medway Council eventually apologised to the woman.

After years of children being encouraged to master the art of penmanship, the risk of swallowing the cap was deemed greater than the desire for good handwriting. Waterman added a warning to their fountain pens - 'These pens are not intended for use by anyone under the age of 14 years'.

A group of performers were banned from calling themselves The Freak Show, in case the name offended anyone.

The Home Office decreed that is Prolific and Other Priority Offender scheme could not be shortened to the acronym POPO after it was discovered that this was Turkish for bottom [i.e., ass.] [It is in German as well.]

A school in Islington was asked to drop the word "Saint" from its title by the local council in case it offended other religious groups - despite protests from the headmaster, teachers, governors, most of the parents and the local Jewish and Muslim communities.

It was proposed that the traditional term used for visitors to the House of Commons should be changed from "strangers" to something less aggressive.

The Christian Union at Hull University was told by Student Union officials that it must allow atheists to help run it, otherwise they would be breaking equal opportunities rules.

Swings in Wiltshire which had been in place for 25 years had to be replaced after an inspection reported that they were too high.

A car that was legally parked and properly taxed was towed away because the windows had been left open half an inch and this was deemed to be a fire risk as a passing child could have dropped a match inside.

A school in Sutton changed the signs in the corridors from "No Running" and "No Shouting" to "Please Walk" and "Please Speak Quietly" as the original signs were thought to have had a negative effect on the children. [Note: What would they have told Teddy Roosevelt?]

The Government asked British diplomats in war ravaged Afghanistan to give a higher priority to gender issues and encourage Afghan tribesmen to have counselling to get in touch with their feminine side.

A woman sued her employer for supplying alcohol at a Christmas party because she was stopped and breathalysed on the way home in her car.

A career criminal was awarded £248,000 in compensation for a freak fall in a prison shower. Despite never having had a job in his life, the compensation payment included a substantial amount 'for lost earnings'.

A man who had drunk ten pints of lager and fell over while changing a lightbulb was awarded £75,000 compensation because his council had, apparently, been 'negligent' by installing a light fitting over a top step.

A woman sued a small shop and put it out of business after her child, who was roller-skating around the shop, hit the door.

A convicted armed-robber who was secretly filmed by police was awarded £1,000 in compensation when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his rights to a private life had been breached by the police.

Health and Safety inspectors recommended that the Armed Services use chlorine to disinfect the water in an assault course and handrails to stop soldiers slipping on muddy training slopes.

A headmaster in Cumbria banned the use of crash mats in his school because he feared they would encourage pupils to take risks.

A West Yorkshire local council added a non-slip surface to the highly-polished floor of a town hall used by ballroom dancers, in order to comply with health and safety regulations.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-420729/

04 Juni 2008

Law School - Terrible Mistake

I enrolled in law school directly out of college because I hadn't the foggiest idea what to do with my bachelor's in English and Political Science, I was good at writing and arguing, and so forth. Unlike many of these posters, the decision was not at all at the behest of my parents--in fact, for diverse reasons both of them tried to talk me out of it! Despite a low LSAT and a so-so GPA, I was able to attend a fairly prestigious (if not Top Ten) law school because my undergraduate degree came from an Ivy League university.

Almost from the start, I loathed law school. It was tortuously boring; the classes were mostly about grandstanding and intimidation, and my classmates were the usual hypercompetitive, humorless dweebs who populate law schools. I was in my early twenties and didn't really understand what kind of person I really was--I had convinced myself that I was the lawyer type, and as a result I couldn't figure out why I hated it all so much. In the first semester's exams, the overall results were a disaster (see below), and right afterwards, as my grades hovered just above academic-probation levels, I quit. But six months later I lost my nerve and returned, and of course everyone praised me for not being a Quitter, à la Dick Nixon.

Throughout the rest of my time at law school, I remained a gigantic nervous wreck, increasingly hostile and bored stiff. In three years, I gained forty pounds (I'm male, BTW--it afflicts both sexes). I never "got it"--consequently, my grades never "clustered" and instead roamed all over the place. I was probably the only person who came close to an AmJur in some classes (Jurisprudence and Advanced Constitutional Law) and attained near-honors level in Contracts and Wills, while almost flunking others, such as Civil Procedure, Bankruptcy and Sales (which is very similar to Contracts). Criminal Procedure (Miranda, etc.) was my favorite class; I put in loads of time, yet barely passed it. In short, I never got over the panic and anxiety of First Years, and every exam was like tossing stuff into a mysterious black box--I could never figure out why I did well or poorly.

Somehow, I managed to pass the bar exam on the first try but it did me little good. I found law practice even more anxiety- provoking than school had been. My class standing was so low (right between third and fourth quartile) that a firm job was out of the question. I tried to go solo but couldn't make head or tail of it. I finally gave it up about four years later.

Every undergraduate, and everyone contemplating law school, ought to spend a minimum of 40 hours per week for 50 straight weeks in a genuine law firm environment. It doesn't matter whether one is doing paralegal work, fetching coffee or just tagging along. You need to know and understand precisely what lawyers do on a daily basis. If, after that, it still appeals to you, then go ahead. I would bet that if this kind of practicum were made a mandatory prerequisite, law school applications would drop by over fifty percent and we would no longer be speaking of a "glut" of attorneys. Remember, one attends "law school," not "lawyer school." People majoring in literature, political science, history or even business opt for law school while under the delusion that they will spend their days making brilliantly crafted arguments in court and discussing the pros and cons of upcoming legislation and public policy while eating 4-star dinners in penthouse restaurants overlooking the skyline. In reality, they'll be spending 65-90 hours per week in a cubicle under fluorescent lighting, gulping warm Diet Pepsi and poring over 7-point print on debentures while licking a maniacal senior partner's boots (or stilettos). Or they'll be haggling with insurance adjusters and doing half of the "clerical" work themselves while putting up with vicious, greedy, deceitful and vengeance-obsessed clients who won't pay up, as well as resentful, sullen court clerks and incompetent, corrupt judges who resent having to do any work at all and therefore begrudge the attorney his very existence.

Yes, you may, may earn lots of money, but chances are you will have no time or opportunity to enjoy it, and whenever you do sneak off for a bit, the Blackberry, email and cell phone won't be far away. Time and Litigation wait for no one. A lawyer I know, under forty, has already endured three heart attacks and has a permanent prescription for Lipitor. And he's one of the lucky ones--he actually likes his job!

In the years following, I have had all manner of strange experiences, including Navy Boot Camp and riding in a small ship in 20-foot swells with 60-mph winds, standing by a terminally ill man as he passed on, and even a root canal, and none of it has been remotely as frightening or revolting.

As Sammy Davis, Jr. said on "Baretta," DON'T DO IT!