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New entries over at http://leilahiggins.wordpress.com/ TSA, law school, and more!

Hi guys,

I figured that the folks who read this journal are probably as interested in my legal blatherings as my colleagues are in how many awesome pubs I can find in London. I've therefore decided to do a split. I'll still keep this journal up with my more personal adventures and thoughts, but will be posting the more academically oriented thoughts to: leilahiggins.wordpress.com

Lookin' down, lawschool
There is a culture of depression in law school. You are institutionally compared to everyone else, living on a graded curve. And if, like me, you wanted to go to a place full of people who share your interests but will challenge you, you often find yourself unable to compete. Coming from the school where grades don't matter because we don't have them, and entering into a field of this profession where the rest of my resume will be as or more important than that little GPA doesn't help much with the intervening years. It's hard to remember the 2nd grade rule: keep your eyes on your own work. This is especially the case where folks do want to be challenged, to really make the most for themselves personally as well as professionally in these three years. That's a lot of pressure to add onto peers who spend all night in the library, study for 14 hours, and will always do better than you on your tests, because NO ONE gets ALL As. When you're competing with an entire group of people with different strengths and weaknesses, you cannot ever win.

Then there's the Lawyer media. Articles about addiction and a lack of bonuses and the various plagues that face the legal profession. The culture of depression doesn't stop after law school with 6 digits of debt, trying to get a job in a shrinking market, the already existing culture of addiction to alcohol and other substances, the competition from the other 49 schools ranked above mine nationally, and the fact that everyone else seems to be doing something cooler than me. Then there's this article on why law students are getting in the way of everyone else. No one wants to be told that in addition to being useless, we're also hurting other people by pursuing our dreams.

Is it really all that surprising that there are substance abuse networks dedicated to lawyers? I wonder what it is about the law that creates and attracts this kind of thing? I've met folks in government who are genuinely happy, and hope to be one of them. I'm doing this to achieve an idealistic goal, and know several other talented and reasonable folks who are doing so as well. There is no reason that any of this nonsense should bother any of us, but it does. We should be comrades in arms, not competition. No one wants to go from being the pretty one to one of the pretty. It's hard to remember that a lot of this is written by unhappy Eeyores and, while probably true, is more true if you buy into it than not.

Taliban, Taliban?
In my terrorism class, I often found myself flashing back to ninth grade English, when we discussed the Romantic philosophical movement. It generally consisted of young men, going off into the woods, becoming ascetic, writing poetry about blue roses (it's possible I'm making that bit up) and generally seeking all the answers from a wacky guru in the great Somewhere Else. Romantics would generally die out at 35, either from some disease in the woods or marriage and responsibility.

The Netherlands (and the rest of Europe) seem to have been plagued with this “radicalization” phenomenon. Young men (and some women) convert to radical Islam and then decide it would be super cool to hate the West. So they would go off to the great Somewhere Else of Syria, find some Taliban, and try to join up with their friends. Usually, it turns into the worst frat experience ever. Those seeking enlightenment are either distrusted and ignored or given the chance to prove themselves to the kinds of people who blow themselves up to make a point. If you think hazing in Greek culture is bad, try it Mujaheddin style. The guys who actually get to meet members of Taliban (and survive) come back to Europe and tell all their friends how terrible it was. Some try to go off into the great wide Somewhere Else by taking a few city blocks with them. Generally, they don't live past 35, thanks to Taliban accessorizing, or the responsibilities of marriage (except for a few notables who really don't have anything but talking young lads into suicide bombing going for themselves).

The Romantic movement didn't last very long, because it couldn't grow old with one generation long enough to really become a fad with the next. It seems that the Arab Spring is helping that to be true of our modern day Romantics. Something else that's helping out a bit is this picture of Osama Bin Laden. He's a sad old man, clinging to a remote, watching videos of himself from when he was awesome. Who is going to rally behind a guru like that? One of our speakers hypothesized that this was why there haven't been any calls to avenge his death. I'm not so foolish as to think that terrorism will become a thing of the past any time soon, but I'm hoping that it will go the way of our 1960's romantic movement: a little trend that only suits a few on the fringes of society.

It's like my own, personal London.
om nom
Catching lunch at a pub called “The Sherlock Holmes” near Embankment. The house ale (Sherlock Holmes Ale) is absolutely terrible, but completely worth it, just for the touristy quality. One of my Works this summer wanted me to start today, so I've taken to the grand tour of cafes and other places with wifi and tables in London, so I can have my tourist vacation while working. The bartender is this adorable short woman who calls everyone “love” or “lovely” and says “Would you like anything else my darling?” I ordered a sausage sandwich, and they offered “brown sauce.” Whatever that is. There are awesome small tables with lovely upholstered stools.

It's like someone made a tourist trap just for me.
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What's International Law got to do with it?
So, in dealing with the International Criminal Courts here, I'm often reminded of this Eddie Izzard Sketch

The International tribunals deal with "those most responsible" for international crimes of war, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The idea is that allowing atrocities to go unpunished sets up new regimes for failure, especially in those cases where the atrocities were committed by the government. The idea is that the general populace will be able to find some closure and feel like justice is possible, and therefore be more inclined to support an effective rule of law.

So much for the philosophy. In Actual Practice, I wonder what it actually does accomplish. These tribunals are massively expensive. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has cost something like 3 billion Euros in its 3 years of existence thus far, was founded to deal with a single terrorist act, and has yet to get a trial as far as a public indictment. The Khmer Rouge is still being tried, 45 years later, in a highly politicized tribunal, run by former Khmer Rouge members (and a few International judges). The maximum sentence for genocide in any tribunal is 30 years, and every country in which the convict serves time has a general policy of release after 2/3 or 1/2 time served. The accused can spend that entire time in appeals.

This is what they get for genocide.

In the countries where they committed these atrocities, people can face life sentences in a broken down system that forgets their appeals, never checks on prison conditions, and relies on false testimony and no evidence to convict for minor crimes. If they kill one person, in the more polite societies, they are imprisoned for life. In the less polite societies, they are either welcomed into a gang or killed by the victim's gang.

Justice at home looks very little like international justice. Who, in a remote village in the former Yugoslavia, will hear or care about a court in the Netherlands. The men being tried internationally very rarely pulled the trigger. Their victims do not know their faces as those of their attackers, and feel that they were wronged by the person who actually shot them. The people who actually killed, raped and mutilated the populace are often granted amnesty in the interests of promoting peace.

If the victims were aware of the consequences faced by those most responsible, would it look like anything more than a mere mockery of justice? When they face 20 years in a rat-infested prison for stealing a loaf of bread, how is a spirit of justice encouraged by an international community that gives less than 1/3 month in sentence for each person killed. No wonder the communities damaged by these people often welcome them back as patriots, as they did Biljana Plavsic. How else can they cope with being so clearly slapped by the international community with this condescending treatment of the wrongs they've suffered?

As a mechanism of justice, I think the international tribunal system has a long road to travel before it reaches anything I would be comfortable calling success. However, as a tool for encouraging human rights, I think it has a lot of potential.

The tribunals are a statement that the international community cares about human rights, and is willing to take the slow and painful steps to get its ponderous weight behind them. Human Rights law is still growing, international criminal law is one of the more solidified forms of international law (we're staying out of business agreements, for now). When looking to enforce standards of human rights law outside of the context of war (say, the plight of women in India), it's helpful to look to the opinions granting lenient sentences to power crazed psychopaths. It's formed a much clearer body of law that can be practiced in a more intimate fashion with governments not facing a criminal tribunal, but still wanting to fulfill their international legal obligations. The conviction of Milosevic doesn't just concern him and his country, it has set up the necessary legal precedent that could be used to argue for rights with the more rational governments. It still doesn't feel like justice, but it could help just a little more than it hurts.

(no subject)
The Dutch are big fans of tilted houses and steep, lethal, spiral stairs. My roommate and I are sharing a 1 bedroom apartment. There are spiral stairs which i find it easier to just toss things I want downstairs down so I have both my hands free. It is only a matter of time before I eat it on those stairs.

If I vanish for a while, never fear, I'm just dead in a heap at the bottom of the stair spiral from hell.

(no subject)
om nom
There is a lot of happiness in the land of Leila right now.

My street is cobbled, as I mentioned before, and full of little shops in a Harry Potter Hogsmeade sort of fashion. There's a tea shop across the street I've been drying to go into, and a bakery as well. Today, I finally managed both and have acquired some new bulk teas (Jasmine Mandarin, Blue Mountain and Summer Blend) as well as a new infuser. I also absconded with an apple tart. Now it is sunny, I've all afternoon to do one reading, I have a cup of tea (summer blend) and a warm tart. There is also MAIL from both mom and Emma. And we did Human Rights today with this amazing Scottish woman who wrote fully half of our readings and is amazing in that I want to BE her.

I think this is what heaven should be like.

New Hobbies
It appears that I am both in a new country and having some form of difficulty. Clearly, it is time for another installment of: Leila picks up a new hobby.

This time, it involves my new bike, and a certain quality to the streets of the Hague. This is one of those places that is so old, it didn't really get "planned." But it's also small enough that you can usually stumble your way to where you were intending to go, so long as you have the time and general sense of direction. I just got a bike to help with this process, which either means that I wind up on the other side of town without a clue as to where I am or where I'm going, but also that it's not too tiring to get back. My general strategy for getting utterly lost en route to my final destination involves a lot of peering at signs that say things like: Utrechtsbaan, turning down random streets with the use of the same thinking by which tea leaves are read, taking any street with cobblestones (my street is cobbled) and asking the Danes for directions. It is this last method of lost-getting that is my particular favorite.

I have discovered that there are an infinite number of ways to generally amuse the laid back folks living in the Netherlands. Attempting to pronounce street names, asking for directions, being American, and giving descriptions when I don't know the street names. My favorite thus far went something like this:

Me: It's near that wide open thing with all the trees where they have a flea market on Sundays
Helpful Dane:Flea Market?
Me: You know, it's right next to that castle-looking thing. With a duck pond. With the funky looking ducks.
Helpful Dane: A castle. And a duck pond. I've lived here 18 years. This doesn't exist.
Me: there's all these tourists around it
Helpful Dane: Do you mean Parliament? Where they have an antique market? By the Lake?
Me: Sure, why not!

So, remember kids, when the cobbled streets aren't actually where you live, ask for the duck pond with the tourists.

Rainy days are here again
Recently, one of my colleagues commented that there is more in our lives protected by the honor code than not, meaning that none of us can talk about anything we actually care about. This, combined with a significant amount of busy would account for my deplorable lack of updates, but I do have the time now. It is, after all, 7:40 on the first Sunday of "Spring Break" (oh, feel the laughter) so I have ten minutes to breathe.

And I find myself with nothing to write on. I went up for co-editor in Chief of the Brief I've been working on, which has consisted of my entire happy place at law school. I did not get it. I did what I usually do when I get an interview, namely, tanked it in new and interesting ways. I have set up an appointment with the career office to do a mock interview and they will hopefully help me figure out how to not be such a clutz.

It's raining today, and I find that to be the most striking thing about my life right now. That might sound dull, but to an Arizona girl who grew up living for summer thunderstorms and the rare rainy days, this is as close to heaven as I get. I took yesterday off and went for a wander around Adams Morgan. It was warm and sweet and the air smelled like the coming of beautiful things. I wanted to take the time this week to explore this city I live in and do right by it. I have a lot of work to do this week. I have 500 pages of reading and three days to do it in. I guess it's time I figure out how we do this.


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