Jeana's World of Law

Jeana's World of Law

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chris Christie: A Self-Loathing Republican?

Usually I try and remain as un-biased as a recent college graduate living in Washington D.C. interning for an environmental law firm can be, but today I wanted to write about Chris Christie. I like you, Christie. You do it for me.

I started thinking about the Republican Governor of New Jersey this afternoon when I came across a Huffington Post article detailing his interview with the Washington Post in which he condemned of the GOP by calling their decision to lengthen the nomination process in 2012 the "stupidest thing the Republican Party ever did." A party, keep in mind, that he is very much a part of. 

Last February he made a similar remark in an interview with Fox News (gasp), in which he called the Republican National Committee's decision to award delegates in most states proportionally "the dumbest idea anybody ever had."

I can't help but be brought back to the controversial Hurricane Sandy. You know, that annoyance that disrupted the 2012 campaign trail. When Sandy quite literally ripped open the east coast, both presidential candidates took barely a moment to comment before jumping back on the trail. But not Christie. In my opinion, this was the game changer.

Here was Christie with his state, his people, his beaches, destroyed. He praised Obama for his "outstanding" action post-disaster and politely declined the Republican's request to attend a pro-Romney event. Isn't this exactly what a leader is supposed to do? Put party sides away, and fix the problem? But of course this drew out the peanut gallery, proclaiming that Christie was throwing Romney under the proverbial bus. Why? Because he was there to support the people of the state he governs?

When asked on Fox & Friends about his oh-so-questionable actions, he replied that he doesn't "give a damn about presidential politics" right now. 

Continuing on with Sandy, more recently, Christie pushed for Congress to pass a bill for disaster relief aid. We all know now that in the eleventh hour...the bill was not passed. Pulling no punches, Christie stated: "[Last night,] the House majority failed most basic test of leadership and they did so with callous disregard to the people of my state. ... It was disappointing and disgusting to watch." He also unapologetically named names: "There's only one group to blame ... the House majority, and their Speaker, John Boehner." He added that the relief bill "just could not overcome the toxic internal politics of the House majority."

Burn! And in case you didn't know, John Boehner is a Republican. Christie also took the high road in terms of decrying the overall atmosphere of hyperpartisanship in the government, arguing very correctly that "Americans are tired of the palace intrigue and political partisanship of this Congress ... this used to be something that was not political. Disaster relief was something that you didn't play games with."

His strong statements of non-conformity are more than anomaly in today's polarized world of Democrat vs. Republican. Why does a Republican have to be one way and a Democrat another? Can't we all be a bit self-loathing to our registered parties? Can't some people be pro-gay rights and anti-abortion? 

Although I do not agree with everything Christie stands for, I believe he is a model politician. In are some of this beliefs:
  • Abortion: Pro-life, but supports the exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. He opposes public funding for abortions.
  • Homosexual rights: For same-sex rights in form of civil union. Believes homosexuality is not a sin; people are born that way.
  • Energy: Pro-renewable/green energy. Currently considering a windfarm off the coast of NJ. Does not oppose NJ's state-wide cap-and-trade legislation.
  • Environment: Acknowledges the reality of climate change.
  • Immigration: Supports amnesty for illegal aliens, has expressed support for a pathway to citizenship.
  • Education: For the protection of teacher pensions and collective bargaining.
  • Gun control: Governor Christie supports gun conrtrol laws. He has supported the assault weapons ban, opposes concealed carry laws, and supports the New Jersey one gun per month law. Would expand 'gun control' into broader 'violence control'.
  • Government: Stricter limits on PAC campaign donation, cut wasteful spending, improve transparency. His Ethics Reform plan in 2010 sought to increase transparency in government, accountability to the public from elected officials and strengthen New Jersey's existing laws to ensure that the electoral process is conducted with integrity – a critical step in gaining and keeping the public's trust in their government.
I am very interested to see how Christie's future pans out. Although he has not directly come out and said it, there have been many indications that he is considering a run at the 2016 president elections. Either way, it's refreshing to see a politician who doesn't fit the cookie cutter mold his or her party has created.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Happened in Benghazi?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today (Wednesday, January 23) took on Republican critics of her department's handling of the Benghazi incident.

Headlines since September 11, 2012, have been circulating regarding the situation, leaving many Americans wondering, "Where is Benghazi" and "What happened in Benghazi" and "Wait, didn't the September 11th attacks happen in 2001?"

Where is Benghazi?

Let's start with a geography lesson. Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya. Libya is located in Northern Africa, sandwiched between Algeria and Egypt. To it's north, is the Mediterranean Sea. Libya is included in the generalization of the 'Middle East.'

What has been happening in Benghazi?

Now a history lesson. In 1951, the United States supported the United Nations resolution that provided Libya its independence. Oil was discovered in 1959 and the country began to take advantage of this commodity. To make a long story short, in their attempt to make the oil industry as profitable as possible, the government (led by King Idris) replaced the federal system with a centralized one, causing problems in a country that was deeply divided along regional, ethnic and tribal lines.

This lead to Muammar Gaddafi's 1969 coup d'etat - the revolution he lead to overtake the King and government. Since then, the US-Libyan relations became increasingly strained when Gaddafi nationalized the oil companies. In 1972, the United States recalled its ambassador. Export controls on military and civil aircraft were imposed during the 1970s, and US embassy staff members were withdrawn from the after a mob attacked and set fire to the embassy in December 1979. The US Government designated Libya a "state sponsor of terrorism" on December 29, 1979.

Gaddafi led the country, and its oil exports, until February/March 2011, when anti-government protests broke out in Tunisia and Egypt, marking the start of the Arab Spring - and when the Libyan civil war occurred. At this point, the US had cut ties with Gaddafi. The US, along with several European and Arab nations, called for the UN to authorize military intervention in the conflict. In the end, Gaddafi lost (he died) and his opposition (National Transitional Council) won.

Shortly after the fall, on March 14, 2011, Hilary Clinton made first direct contact with the anti-Gaddafi opposition leader and then on July 15 recognized this as Libya's legitimate authority. The US then led an effort at the UN to repeal parts of UN Security Council Resolution 1970 in order to allow unfrozen Libyan assets to be transferred to the interim government. In October 2011, President Obama pledged to work with the new Libyan government as a partner, and said the US was "committed to the Libyan people". Up to this point, all seemed okay.

September 11, 2012

Now we can continue onto what happened on September 11, 2012. On this day, the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi was attacked by a heavily armed group. Four Americans were killed, including US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and ten others were injured. Note: this attack was completely separate than the attacks on New York City on September 11, 2012. The groups behind the attacks were not associated with one another.

The 2012 attack was strongly condemned by the governments of Libya and the US, and an investigation into who the attackers were is ongoing. Obama went as far as to call it an 'Act of terror' (does that bring a certain Mitt Romney debate fail to mind?),

So where does Clinton fall into it all? 

Well, since the attacks she has repeatedly distanced herself from a direct role in specific situations. Critics of Clinton (mostly Conservative Republicans, go figure) challenged her on two things: 1) the lack of security at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, and 2) the erroneous account provided four days later by UN Ambassador Susan Rice that the attack grew spontaneously from a protest over an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.

So today, Wednesday January 23, Clinton testified and defended her handling of the attack and denied any effort to mislead people.

Clinton took responsibility for the failures that led to those deaths, citing a "personal" commitment to improving diplomatic security abroad. Although she accepted responsibility, she still defended the actions of herself and her department.

A Senate committee report said the State Department made a "grievous mistake" in keeping the Benghazi mission open despite inadequate security and increasingly alarming threat assessments in the weeks before the attack. She placed the incident as part of a long history of such violence as well as the result of regional instability since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In addition, Clinton acknowledged the "systemic breakdown" cited in a report by an Accountability Review Board she appointed and noted that she had accepted all 29 of its recommendations. She also said that her department was taking additional steps to increase security at US diplomatic facilities around the world.

The independent report from the review board said it did not find "that any individual U.S. government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities" leading up to the attack. However, one State Department official resigned and three others were placed on administrative leave after the report was released in December 2012.

This is a particularly big deal for Clinton, who ran an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2008 and was considering running again in 2016, as this may tarnish her chances.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obama Proposes Gun Control Plan

President to propose assault weapons ban, tougher background checks

President Barack Obama will propose an assault weapons ban and better background checks for gun buyers on Wednesday as part of a package of proposals to curb gun violence one month after the Newtown school massacre, according to the Chicago Tribune

The proposals will include executive and legislative measures, with the latter sure to face an uphill battle in Congress, where appetite for renewing an assault weapons ban is low.

Gun restrictions are a divisive issue in the United States, which constitutionally protects a citizen's right to bear arms.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who led a task force that made recommendations on the issue, will present the measures at a White House event attended by children from around the country who wrote letters to the president about gun violence and school safety.

Obama will urge lawmakers to act quickly, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters:
"There are specific legislative actions that he will continue to call on Congress to take, including the assault weapons ban, including a measure to ban high-capacity magazine clips, including an effort to close the very big loopholes in the background check system in our country,"
Biden delivered his recommendations to Obama after a series of meetings with representatives from the weapons and entertainment industries requested by the president after the December 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults were killed.

A White House official said Obama had not endorsed all of the ideas put forward by Biden's team but declined to lay out specifics on what would be announced. Obama has signaled his plan would include elements that did not require congressional approval. The president could take action to ban certain gun imports and bolster oversight of dealers.

Though the chances of getting a ban on assault weapons appear low, the White House seems set on getting Obama's support of such a ban solidified in a legislative draft.

What exactly is being proposed?
1. Assault weapons ban
2. Ban on high-capacity magazines capped at 10 bullets
3. Universal background checks
4. Federal funds for national background checks
5. Research on gun violence
6. Better mental health training

What does the NRA have to say about it?
The proposals are likely to draw ire from the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbying group that is traditionally associated with Republicans. The NRA proposed having armed officials in schools throughout the country and has said the media and violent video games shared blame for the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

What about the public?
New national polls indicated a majority of Americans support some or most gun control measures.

By a 51 to 45 percent margin, Americans questioned in a new Pew Research Center poll said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun rights. And by a 52 to 35 percent margin, a new ABC News/Washington Post survey indicates the public says it is more likely to support some forms of gun control after last month's massacre. However, the polls showed continuing divisions on political and gender lines.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tips for Conquering the LSAT

A good score on Law School Admission Test, or the LSAT, is viewed by many to be the most important part of getting into a top-tier law school. Rather than testing what you've already learned, it's designed to measure and project your ability to excel in law school.

The test is broken into five separate sections: analytical reasoning, two logical reasoning sections, reading comprehension, and a writing section. The writing section is unscored, but it's provided to each law school to which a given student applies.

Given that the LSAT is considered by many law schools to be the most accurate measure of your ability to perform in law school, it is given a tremendous amount of weight in the application process. Admissions officials feel that solid performance in undergraduate classes might not necessarily correlate to success in law school. So, it's important to invest significant time and energy prior to taking the LSAT. Use these seven tips, brought to us by US News, to get started (I know I will):
  1. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Oftentimes aspiring law students will let LSAT preparation slip by the wayside during their busy weeks in school or at work, only to spend hours on the weekends cramming and taking an endless number of practice tests. While practice tests are important, it's best to keep your mind LSAT-ready at all times, practicing a new section each day with the occasional or weekly practice test thrown in the mix, experts say. Andrew Brody, national content director for LSAT programs for the Princeton Review, compares preparing for the LSAT to training for a marathon. He encourages students to keep their minds sharp at all times, but not to overwork them. I'm taking this advice, and am planning on taking the LSATs in June 2013. I thought about February, but realized that would not give me adequate time to prepare myself, which could potentially lead to not getting into the law school of my choice.
  2. Help yourself, not your buddy. While there are benefits to studying anything with a friend, the LSAT exposes your personal strengths and weaknesses more clearly than any other standardized test, experts say. Given the analytic nature of most questions, what comes easily to one person may prove to be a challenge for their friend. Studying in a group can be detrimental, given that it might make you prone to review the test in a general fashion rather than focusing on your specific weaknesses. Because the test does not quiz you on content but rather how you use logic and think analytically, cramming with a friend is of little benefit. It's best to learn what gives you the most trouble and drill yourself on those questions alone or with the help of a tutor or LSAT instructor. I agree with US News on this one. I opted for a LSAT tutor, and he said the same thing. My focus is me, not anyone else.
  3. Don't just practice. Analyze. Because of the unfamiliar nature of many of the questions you'll encounter on the LSAT, you must practice them regularly to get accustomed to their format. The first time, it is advised to take a test "cold" - without studying. From there, mere practice isn't enough, however, testing experts say. After you work through a timed practice section or timed practice test, don't just tabulate your results and record your score. Instead, look closely at each question you missed and try to discern what led you to the wrong answer. Students who have received high scores on the test note that practice without analysis leads to little improvement. This unfortunately is my least favorite part of studying for the LSATs. When I complete a practice test, I want to be done. Going back and looking over wrong answers can be daunting, but it is true that learning from mistakes can lead to improvement.
  4. Save some time to play. Testing experts agree that the test's analytical reasoning, or "logic games" section, is one of the most difficult sections for students to wrap their minds around initially because it's vastly different from anything else they've seen on standardized tests. The four games in the section each pose five to seven questions that require students to understand complex hypothetical relationships between multiple parties or objects. The easiest way to solve these is to diagram the relationships so they can be more easily visualized and understood than what can be garnered from simply reading the text and answering the questions. Luckily for me, I love logic games. But the LSAT ones are a whole different ballgame. I bought a LSAT logic games practice book, and try to work through them one at a time.
Other self-made tips that I've found to help, which others have seem to found as well according to my google searches of LSAT tips, have been to study in chunks (one section at a time), take timed practice tests (several if not infinite), and to be on top of the studying schedule. I have created my own study schedule, with an official practice LSAT test scheduled for March. Unlike several college students prepping for the LSAT, I am out of college and working full time, which makes studying difficult. February would be to soon, but would you believe it, Monday, June 10th can't come soon enough! 

So, when should you take the LSAT? Check out this Above the Law article for more help.

Friday, January 4, 2013

What Happened With The Fiscal Cliff?

Originally posted on ModernFAQs.

The fiscal cliff has been averted -- at least for the time being -- after a year of worrying, debating, and discussing. Congress and President Obama decided to raise taxes a bit, delay the scheduled budget cuts that promised to crush the economy, and create a plan that will delay (for now) a total economic meltdown.

The “fiscal cliff” is the term used to describe the situation our government faced at the end of 2012, when the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 were scheduled to go into effect (December 31 at midnight). In the beginning of the 2013, about $500 billion in tax increases and $200 billion in spending cuts were scheduled to take effect. Now that the House has passed a Senate deal to avert the fiscal cliff, it will become law when President Obama signs it.

According to CNN, there are five things to know about the complex bill, and what it does and doesn't do:

1. No side won: Republicans accepted higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans. Democrats accepted a higher threshold for how much income will face a higher tax rate. President Obama broke a vow to raise tax rates on annual household income over $250,000 and individual income over $200,000.

2. We may have a new definition of the 'wealthiest': President Obama made raising tax rates on the top 2% of earners in America a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. The 2% figure includes those with income over $250,000. The compromise bill changes that figure. Tax rates will go up only for individuals with income over $400,000 and families earning more than $450,000. The deal does, however, cap some deductions for individuals making $250,000 and for married couples making $300,000. That allows the president bragging rights to say the deal raises taxes on people at those income levels. But he said just weeks ago that capping deductions at the $250,000 level would not be enough and that tax rates would rise.

3. Three more fiscal cliffs are on the way: The deal delays the sequester, a series of automatic cuts in federal spending, for two months. In the meantime, the Senate plan calls for $12 billion in new revenue and another $12 billion in spending cuts. The spending cuts are to be split between defense and nondefense spending. The other two: the debt ceiling and a continuing budget resolution.

4. The majority of House Republicans opposed it: Although House Speaker John Boehner supported the bill, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, opposed it, as did most Republicans in the House. So while the Senate vote was an overwhelming 89 to 8, the House vote was 257 to 167. The vast majority of House Democrats supported the bill.

5. Your paycheck is still likely to shrink: The deal does not address an increase in payroll taxes. No legislation to address the fiscal cliff is expected to. Now, the cut on those taxes has expired. In monetary terms, those earning $30,000 a year will take home $50 less per month, and those earning $113,700 will lose $189.50 a month.