12 January 2010

A Very, Very Angry Sausage

  • Professor Ribstein, through no fault or intent of his own (he was making a valid — probably unsound, but valid — point about the relative merit of different pay levels within the legal profession), has really, really pissed me off... through an uncritical quotation from an ignoramus named Erin Smith, who in turn bloviates:

    Until you've done it, you can't underestimate the toll it takes to repeatedly miss your best friend's birthday party, to tell your significant other that you will not be making that flight to visit their parents tomorrow or that you'll need to put off having children until you make partner. They pay you that much money because they expect you to answer every call and email — there's no such thing as a break.

    "Young Associates Are Way Overpaid And Paid Just Right, All At The Same Time" (06 Jan 2010).

    What a load of crap. In the broader context, this is so obviously self-serving that it doesn't deserve much credit... especially from anyone who has ever been a butterbar. Most military officers would be ecstatic if the "toll" of their jobs was limited to missing birthday parties, delaying children, and/or not seeing their in-laws as scheduled (which may, in fact, be a fringe benefit!); and the less said about a true 24/7 responsibility (technically, an officer is always on duty... even when on leave) the better. And for this, a military officer gets the additional privileges of having his/her butt shot at, delivering death notifications to people they knew personally, responding to domestic violence incidents, visiting mangled airmen/soldiers/sailors in the hospital, and sending people into harm's way every day for slightly under $33k1... admittedly, supplemented by "socialized medicine" and the dubious benefits of lots of fashionable high-polyester-content clothing, living in base housing or cheap quasislum apartments near the crappiest schoolbuildings for miles, and shopping per force at stores with all the charm and quality stock of a 1960s-era Piggly Wiggly.

    Keep in mind, too, that Ms Smith's salary "data" — if you'll excuse the gross overstatement of its validity — concerns lawyers whose only concern is commercial: At the big firms, young associates aren't going to be doing civil rights litigation or criminal work, but reviewing documents in commercial transactions and litigation. That's not to say that those tasks are meaningless or worthless; it's only to point out the differing stakes. OK, so the lawyer necessarily has a doctoral degree (these days), while the lieutenant/ensign necessarily has only a bachelor's degree (plus more jobskill-based training than most lawyers get in their first three years of practice, but that's an argument for another time), although that lieutenant or ensign will almost certainly earn the equivalent of an MBA (or, occasionally, a real master's degree) before the six-year point. If "education level" mattered, nurses would make more than plumbers... or, more to the point, at least earn equivalent to first-year stock traders. My point isn't that "education level" doesn't matter; it is that it does not explain anything in this context.

    Maybe, though, this is inevitable for a profession that actively discourages real-world experience, and in particular public service, with the structure of its training and admissions programs and the collective identity of its instructors and leaders (name an ABA President or endowed faculty chair who did not go directly, or almost directly, from high school to undergrad to law school to civilian practice). That doesn't mean I have to like it; in that sense, I suppose I might as well shut up and get on with it, having known what I was getting into. (Yep, I was an officer first, who happened to have Certain Assigned Tasks — not a flyboy wearing a uniform.) Shutting up and soldiering will not reduce the insult... or the offense at sheer ignorance.

    Pay parity for military officers with their purely commercial counterparts isn't going to happen (and there are solid, historical reasons that such parity would be a bad idea for a representative democracy anyway). The self-aggrandizing bullshit spewed forth in support of some aspects of the differential, though, reflects a kind of ignorance of reality that we'd reject instantly in a bad sitcom. Every job — and, in particular, every profession — has a human toll that is not immediately apparent from the job/profession title. But don't point at your stubbed toe receiving gold-plated private treatment (at your convenience) while some beneath-your-notice platoon leader is in triage awaiting the word on whether her IED-mangled leg is going to need amputation, then expect me to sympathize when you make five times the lieutenant's salary for doing less.

  • Big Brother is going to need to subvert the EU judiciary first. How ironic that the inchoate right in Europe that is a watered-down version of our Fourth Amendment gets more respect from a non-supreme judiciary than ours did from the USA TRAITOR Act.2
  • Literary feuds, in France. Your ancestors smell of elderberries, you English kanigget!
  • Professor Patry points out another bit of tension between the content industries and copyright law: He's dropping Netflix over its agreement to delay rentals.
  • Professor Tushnet comments on inscrutable, insurer-driven restrictions on fair use. The reality is that publisher policies on these matters are driven not by the individual consideration of the four factors in § 107, but by blanket provisions in errors-and-omissions policies written by people who do not understand even the basics of copyright law.

  1. At that, it's better than my first paycheck, all those years ago; thanks to President Carter's largest-ever-as-a-percentage military pay bump, I made almost as much as my girlfriend-the-Catholic-school-teacher. And speaking of grossly underpaid professions...
  2. To quote myself, from a little over a year ago:

    The USA Totalitarian Regime Activity Incitement To Obscure Reality Act, Pub. L. No. 107–56. They had to destroy civil liberties and representative democracy to save them. Riiiiiiight. What part of "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" did they not understand... aside from "all of it"?

    "Too Many Sausages, Not Enough Caffeine" (06 Oct 2008) (emphasis in original).