May 21, 2008

Lost in the discussion of Obama's troubles wooing the white uneducated in Appalachia has been his success in wooing what could be called "Hegel Republicans." Clearly, he's making up the "blue collar" votes he's losing somewhere, since he continues to have a healthy lead over McCain nationwide, and I suspect that there are a fair share of conservatives out there whose damascene experience was the Iraq War. Needless to say, in this election cycle, the public perceives the support of Nebraska's senior senator a lot more positively than Connecticut's junior senator.

May 20, 2008

EMK: This diagnosis is one that is very familiar to my family, since it was a brain tumor that led to the death of my father, the first Steven Smith, ten years ago. Over the course of a month in early-1997, he had begun acting very erratically, at least from what we knew of his personality. His speech patterns had become more rushed, his actions seemed to take on a greater sense of urgency and intensity, and his usual mild-mannered demeanor had dissipated.

One day in March, he just dropped off the radar for a couple of hours, and we spent a horrifying afternoon trying to figure out what happened to him. Finally, we received a call from a Highway Patrolman, who informed us that he had been taken to UCLA Medical after suffering a seizure driving northbound on the 405. It turned out that after meeting with another attorney in the South Bay area, he had driven aimlessly for awhile, sideswapping another car without stopping, before finally getting on the San Diego Freeway, where he eventually careened into the center divider. The CHIPs thought he was drunk, at first, but it soon became apparent that something else was wrong.

Crashing his car in the vicinity of Westwood turned out to be one of the few breaks my father got over the next year and a half. Several days later, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, a metastization of the melanoma he had from nine years earlier. UCLA Medical Center has one of the top cancer research departments on the planet, and considering the initial diagnosis that he had about six months to live, undergoing one of their experimental regiments seemed like the way to go. Believing he was a part of something bigger than himself was one of the things that kept him going for the next year and a half, and my family got to spend more time with him as a result of the innovative treatment he endured. It was painful, nonetheless, and I recall being asked by my dad if I knew where he could get some cannibus, which was ironic, since I've pretty much eschewed drugs my whole life thanks to his draconian anti-drug policies.

He also found another reason to live, at the office. He became determined to keep his position as a Chapter 7 Trustee, and he discovered that the Americans with Disabilities Act* gave him certain protections that could not be denied by the Justice Department. The fact that he his speech had been altered and his reflexes less quick were not excuses to deprive him of a job that he loved. And after eight years of divorce, he found the time to remarry our mother; it was one of life's little oddities that my parents seemed to get closer after they got divorced than while they were married.

In the end, though, it wasn't enough. In August, 1998, he began to fade, frustratingly unable to communicate what was on his still-vibrant mind. He returned to UCLA, and they confirmed what we had feared, that the cancer had returned, and was inoperable. The only thing left to do was to wait for the inevitable, which finally occurred on October 11, 1998, during the fourth game of the NLCS.

*He even went so far as to write a letter to George H.W. Bush, thanking him for signing the ADA into law, while admitting he had never voted for him and that he had even said some cross things about the President during that administration. The first President Bush handwrote a very nice and classy response.

May 19, 2008

Sorry for the lack of content lately. When I first started blogging six years ago, it was around the same time I hung up my office shingle for the first time. There wasn't a lot of work for awhile, and blogging was simply a way to kill time at the office between cases. I had always fantasized about being a pundit, and this gave me a way to pontificate to my hearts content, especially about issues on which I had opinions but little expertise.

Most of the other people who had taken up this hobby were conservative, hawkish, and otherwise indistinguishable, even to the point that it was assumed that "warblogging" was the de facto language of the new medium, so being a lefty blogger in the spring of '02 allowed me to stand out from the crowd. I have always been grateful to the people who, in spite of never having met me, still saw fit to write me and give encouragement about something I said at this site.

But my target audience was always my immediate circle of friends, and I think once I realized that most of my readers were either other bloggers, or were people who read hundreds of blogs a day, much of the fun went out of it. In the early days I used to write about a night at the pub with my pals, or the joys of eating a Dodger Dog at the Stadium, with a lot of sports recaps from the night before. Political opinions were much less frequent.

Now, it's been mainly politics, and I'm bored. Some time ago, I realized my voice was not an indispensible one in the blogosphere, that I could just save myself a lot of time and link to whatever Kevin Drum or Matthew Yglesias posted today, rather than trying to come up with anything original, and it would still encompass whatever it was I felt needed to be said (except for Yglesias' occasional [Jonah] Goldbergian-takes on basketball, a sport about which he knows precious little).

Not getting much in the way of links was also a killer. Blogging, like journalism as a whole, shares many of the same characteristics as high school, with cliques of popular kids, nerds, jocks and goths segregating themselves. I suppose it's human nature; we want to be with people like ourselves, and we can be quite ruthless when it comes to blowing off former buddies who turned out to be not as popular as we would have liked. The social gatherings that I used to enjoy, that were such a vital part of the joy of blogging, have now vanished, or at least as far as I am a part of same.

However, ennui cannot explain the dearth of recent postings. The collapse of the housing market, combined with the convoluted nature of the 2005 BARF Act, has made this an extraordinary time to be a bankruptcy lawyer, and my practice is not unaffected. Whereas I used to blog about as often as I generated billable hours, I am now working at full capacity, seven days a week. For the past three weeks, I have not left the office until 8 p.m. every week night, while putting in half-days on Saturday and Sunday. If I can help someone save their house, or at least extend their stay for a year, it's far more satisfying than anything I might write about here.

Of course, hard times can't last forever, and eventually the caseload at my office will return to the lethargic mean that is the life of any bankruptcy lawyer during a Democratic Presidency. It is my intention that once the economy starts to soar in the Obama Administration, and I am forced to scrounge for work again, my blog will focus on the very unique life that is mine, and not on the humdrum, banal goings-on inside the Beltway.