Monday, June 27, 2005

Working for Wizards

This post will constitute the entirety of my Wizards posts, since the experience is already over at the time of actually writing this. I will sumarize my time there with two words: pointless experience. Yes, I have competed a perfunctory legal intern (paid no less) which gave me insight into the in-house counsel experience that will help inform my future legal carrer. And yes, it was pointless. Most of what I learned from a legal perspective I already knew, and the internship was not setup such that it was easy for me to get to know other employees or legal staff. Complicating matters was an hour and a half commute, each way, between Greenlake and Wizards HQ in Renton.

My primary task consisted of reviewing contracts between Avalon Hill, a game company WotC's mother company Hasbro purchased a few years ago, and a whole host of independent game inventors. My NDA bars me from saying much more ('cause, like, this blog is super non-annonomous). But I will openly question the utility of the project. Seemed more like busy work that was beneath the legal assistant (who was really nice) but deemed important my some person out in the corporate authority zone. I think if I didn't really need the experience and resume line, I would have left the job. It was just very unfulfilling and the attornies who I was supposed to be learning from didn't seem to have a lot of interest in teaching me anything.

Thankfully, I never need to actually quit, because someday in middle July I was approached by the head of the legal department who informed me that with the departure of my supervising attorney (she was off to join the Microsoft Legal Legions) and certain financial considerations at Wizards, they were simply notin a position to continue the internship beyond the first week of August. The announcement struck my work performance almost immediately. I tried really hard to care, to work hard, to do good work... but I just couldn't pull it together, and in the end I left Wizards with less than 1/3 of the total job completed, even though I had consumed more than half of the summer. Let's just hope that the experience counts for something when I start applying for real jobs next year.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Turning 24

Today I turned 24 It's not the most amazing event ever, to be certain. The somewhat trite comment about birthdays not mattering after 21 continues to hold true. I'm told that 25 holds some level of excitement, in that you qualify for cheaper car insurance. But I don't drive all that much, so that seems like a hollow event. The celebration was fun, if not a little sad. It was fun because friends and family gathered at my house for food and presents.

The sadness, one of the most intense I've ever felt, came from opening the presents from my mother. She's been having a very tough time making ends meet. Work has been bad, there have been certain fiscal incidents that caused problems, and my grandmothers continued degradation as she ages have forced her to spend more time with her and less earning money. But my mom has been through tough times before and has done an amazing job shielding her family from her troubles. But I guess I'm getting somewhat more aware of my mom's actions, because this time I saw right through her efforts. The gifts she got me, while thoughtful, were all either very inexpensive or things she owned and was parting with for my own happiness. I guess sadness is the wrong term, because I was also deeply touched by her own sacrifice to make sure the day went well. And it did. And I owe her for it.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Not My Usual Subject Matter

I usually leave my good friend Sam to discuss gay rights issues, but this New York Times article has got me worried. You can read it here provided you have sold your soul to A couple of interesting and frightening issues emerge from this piece.

First, hypocrisy. The Right has been bashing the Left for using the Courts to persue our agenda for so long, and yet it seems they have no problems with pushing special-interest legislation and then using the courts to ensure strict enforcement. So much for personal liberty.

But more importantly, I grew up in a swing-district where most folks had lots of money (not my family, tragically) and I get the feeling that social issues kind of fell on all sides of the line. But for the most part, social issues weren't really discussed in a two-sided fashion. There was always a lot of discussion about acceptance and tolerance (good things, if you ask me) but rarely did we discuss people's god given right to discriminate, or how being gay was an affront to God. Now it seems that these discussions are beginning to take place in many states... especially the red ones.

None of this should be particularly surprising, except that the article left one very important issue unanswered... how are students reacting to these new discussions? Obviously some parents feel this is important, but chances are their kids were already indoctrinated well before this ground swell of anti-gay rhetoric. But what of the children whose parents have let their child form their own social opinions? Are they adopting this new hate?

The question is important because it alters how we respond to the current political fight. Obviously the Left is opposed to the current anti-gay marriage amendments, but I think that many (myself included) believe the urgency is not as great as the Right wants us to believe. So long as the U.S. Constitution doesn't get amended, its just a matter of time before the old guard, anti-gay populations die off, leaving political control to today's youth. I used to operate on the assumption that youth refused to buy into this new hate, and would repeal the bans as soon as they arrested control... but if the New York Times is right, and indoctrination is underway, I worry how wise it is to rely on my assumption.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Not Really Done

Today marks the end of my 2L year at the UW... but the end is somewhat hollow because it is simply incomplete. This past week I rushed to complete several outstanding projects, most notably a 25 page report on the share-a-like provisions of the GPL and a website on VoIP technology and uses. It took quite a bit longer to finish. Add on top my obligations flowing out of GPSS and Lindsay's graduation from the Political Science Department, and you've got one hell of a busy week.

With the week over I can look back and see that I have accomplished a lot... but unfortunately I still have a report due on my evaluation of the Seattle Broadband Technology Task Force and various administrative issues surrounding my application to a federal clerkship. So instead of proudly announcing that I am a 3L today, I am somewhat disappointed to say that I am a 2L+ with hopes of advancement.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Why a Strong Central Government Sucks

Today the Supreme Court handed down a decision in Gonzales v. Raich where the U.S. Government sought to prosecute a marjuana grower under Federal law even though a recently passed State law made the activity legal. At issue is the breadth of the Interstate Commerce Clause. Now, the Commerce Clause has been used to do a lot of great things, like enforce civil rights statutes and empower the New Deal, and I like that. But the Commerce Clause is a dual edge sword, and I think liberals like myself are about to get smacked upside the head if we don't do something real soon.

I haven't read the Raich decision yet, and probably won't because it will just upset me... but I don't really need to understand the Court's reasoning to be upset by the long term consequences. In theory a strong federal power isn't bad... so long as that federal power is difficult to wield and used only in extreme cases. However, the halls of Congress are not so silent as they used to be. With the impending death of the filibuster, the near extinction of the centrist politician, and new methods to control party behavior, it has become easier for the majority party to get legislation through. I'm not just talking Republicans here... this stuff goes for Democrats. Again, that's not necessarily bad either.

The real problem is that Congress needs to always be doing "something" in order to validate its existence and strengthen its member's reelection campaigns. Elections are not won by declaring "I did a good job of bogging down the system and keeping things from happening." Oh no, today's Congress-critters need to always be dolling out the legislative successes. Whether its industry, special interest, or taxes... Congress cannot simply stand by and announce "everything is more or less fine, what isn't fine is a State issue." Which is really unfortunate, because many of the problems facing people today are state issues... or at least could be solved with innovative and local state solutions. Instead, Congress feels the need to stick its fingers into every pot.

The Raich decision deals with drugs, which is a sensitive topic. Let's assume for just a moment that a majority of Americans truly believe that using medical marjuana is bad (I suggest they don't, but that there is a very vocal minority who hold Congress hostage to ever increasing demands for anti-drug law). Sure, fine, pass a Federal law that says you can't ship this stuff between states because the state's themselves lack the power to enforce the law. But, if a majority of Californians (or Washingtonians... as the case may be) chose to allow medical drug use in their own state, what possible reason does the Federal government have to say otherwise? And given the nature of Congress, how is that Californian majority supposed to do anything about it? Even if the 10 states with similar laws on the books ban together, and even if they represent 60% of the American population, the U.S. Senate will never go along with it.

And that's okay, that's how its supposed to be... the Senate is there to make sure that state's rights are not tramppled on. But that limitation was meant to go hand-in-hand with certain absolute limitations on the power of the Federal government. Cases like Raich only serve to loosen those restrictions and allow Congress to get into every are of public policy. And because of that drive to achieve "legislative success" we get a Congress that has the means, the money, and the 24 hour, unceasing, overdemanding NEED to legislate everything at the federal level.

Worse part of it all... this decision will be hailed by liberals across the nation who don't understand we are losing the fight.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Job Market Success

When I first started law school I was surprised at how intensely everything focused on the job hunt. I'm still not sure if the focus resulted from the poor job market, or just the competitive nature of law students. One thing is for certain, I could never really bring myself to the levels of fanaticism expressed by my colleagues. Yes, I participated in things like On Campus Interviews (OCI) and send out a half a dozen resumes over the year... but it never seemed all that important, even though I would have appreciated the chance to gain some out-of-school experience.

Last year, as a result of my lax approach, I went without a legal job. Not a huge loss, all things considered. I just programmed and did other odd jobs around the University. Life was good. This summer looked like it was going to end up very much the same way after I turned down the WIPO gig. But that fate was not to be mine. Yesterday I was offered, and accepted, a summer internship with Wizards of the Coast in-house legal department. Its a relatively small operations; just two lawyers and an office assistant. That's okay though, because if I end up practicing law, I expect it to be in-house and a relatively none combative kind of practice. I think Wizards is going to be a good fit.

As a long time follower of the EFF, I've read their tips on workplace blogging. While all well and good in the abstract, the EFF guidelines essentially mean that I would not be me in my posts, so the alternative is to refrain from posting about the workplace. So don't come here expecting any sort of insider info on Wizards... beyond the simple truth that I probably won't know, if I do know, I probably won't say.

This job now adds to my existing commitments as a research assistant for Prof. Nicholas, continued programming for LegSim, and various summer tasks for GPSS. It should be a very busy summer... which is good, all things considered. My only worry is that I won't be able to spend as much time with Lindsay as I'd like, but hopefully I'll be able to keep my weekends free and without the usual threat of homework that looms during the school year.