The last time someone built a wall…

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ — Robert Frost, Mending Wall

Yes, there’s been a lot of talk about walls lately. Specifically, there’s been a lot of talk about President Donald J. Trump’s wall. You know. The one he wants to build along the border with Mexico. Yeah. That wall.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

According to published reports, it wouldn’t actually be a “wall.” It would be “a series of fences and walls.” Depending on what you choose to believe, it would cost anywhere from $12 billion (the figure given by Trump before he was elected) to more than $21 billion (the figure quoted in a “U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report”). Then again, it might only cost $15 billion (the figure provided by Republican leaders).

As proposed, Trump’s wall would also:

  • Take more than three years to build
  • Cover more than 1,200 miles
  • Supplement existing border barriers (covering approximately 650 miles)
  • Extend “almost the length of the entire border”

Here’s what happened the last time someone built a wall…

But everyone is getting ahead of themselves. Before anyone starts building anything, maybe they should stop and take a breath — and more importantly, take a good hard look at what happened the last time someone built a wall.

After all, it didn’t happen all that long ago. In fact, construction on what we came to know as the Berlin Wall began in August 1961. And, according to the blurb on history.com, its official purpose was to “keep Western ‘fascists’ from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state.” But the fact of the matter was that it was also built to halt a refugee crisis — of sorts.

You see, the West Germans didn’t build it to keep people out of their country. With the Soviet Union’s blessing, the East Germans built it to keep people from leaving theirs. (For some reason, hardcore socialists and Communists didn’t like people fleeing from their warped version of paradise. Maybe 21st century leftists should take note — but that’s another blog topic for another time.)

The fact remains that in the summer of 1961, more than 67,000 people “defected” from East Germany by escaping through Berlin before the East Germans built their wall. By the time they finished building — and reinforcing — it, the wall was 12 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It was topped with an obstacle that was also designed to thwart escape by anyone brave or lucky enough to get that far.

Some who tried to escape after the wall was erected didn’t live to tell the story. But over the years, thousands of people (approximately 5,000 in all) were successful.

As we all know, (or as we should all know) the Berlin Wall — the wall that divided east and west throughout the Cold War — “fell” in 1989.

Now, less than 30 years later, there’s a lot of talk about another wall. Trump’s wall…

“And before I built a wall, I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence…”

Just saying.

Travel bans, terrorism, totalitarianism and Trump

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Today I am taking a break from writing about animals and the law to write about… animals and the law. In a manner of speaking, anyway.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Like most of you, I am absolutely gobsmacked by what’s going on in the United States these days. It’s gotten to the point that when I wake up each morning, I find myself hoping that whatever transpired the day before was all some sort of bizarre nightmare and that sanity will be restored within a few hours. So far I’ve been dreadfully disappointed.

To be fair, I felt the same way about a lot of stuff that happened in the last eight years — but there’s no use crying over spilled milk. It’s what’s happening now that matters…

Trump’s travel ban

As most of you know, I am a first-generation American whose father fled his country (which was then a Communist regime) as a political refugee. So you can imagine how I feel about President Trump’s so-called “travel ban.”

Frankly it doesn’t sit well with me. And apparently it doesn’t sit well with a federal judge, either.

According to published reports, “Federal Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee who presides in Seattle, halted the enforcement of Trump’s order Friday night, effective nationwide.”

Robart did so by granting the temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by the attorneys general from Washington state and Minnesota.

In rendering his decision, Robart said the states “have met their burden of demonstrating that they face immediate and irreparable injury as a result of the signing and implementation of the Executive Order. “

He also said the Executive Order “adversely affects residents in areas of education, employment, education and freedom to travel.”

The Trump administration immediately vowed to fight the TRO. So how all of this will actually play out remains to be seen.

Terrorism and totalitarianism

Acting Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Gillian Christensen told the media that, “(Trump’s order) is intended to protect the homeland and the American people, and the President has no higher duty and responsibility than to do so.”

Maybe so. But an Executive Order banning immigrants and refugees from certain countries from coming to the United States for a specified period isn’t the answer. A travel ban does nothing to address a far greater threat to this country — and that is the threat posed by the terrorist sympathizers and radicalized individuals who are already here.

Furthermore, an Executive Order targeting people from specific countries where a great deal of hatred is directed towards the West in general and the United States in particular only creates more ill will. As if our enemies need another reason to hate us…

Finally, signing such an ill-conceived Executive Order and then firing the acting attorney general who refused to defend it doesn’t seem very presidential to me. In fact, it sounds downright dictatorial. Or maybe even totalitarian

For those of you who don’t know, a totalitarian is someone who embraces totalitarianism. And for those of you who don’t know what that is, here’s a simple definition:

Totalitarianism refers to an authoritarian political system or state that regulates and controls nearly every aspect of the public and private sectors. Totalitarian regimes establish complete political, social, and cultural control over their subjects, and are usually headed by a charismatic leader.”

Hmm… Sound familiar? And here I was thinking that I live in a constitutional republic….

Election 2016: Dark Days in America

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“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”– Alexis de Tocqueville

Official disclaimer: Those of you who read this blog regularly know how I feel about discussing politics in this forum. You also know that while writing about the law, I have taken shots at both President-Elect Donald J. Trump and his vanquished opponent, Hillary Clinton.

So you can take what I am about to say with a grain of salt or you can ignore it completely. You can agree or disagree. You can make your opinion known in the comments section below, or you can keep quiet. That’s your choice.

And ultimately that’s what this post is about. Choice. Or more specifically, the choice Americans had to make when we went to the polls on Tuesday.

In America these are dark days, indeed

To put all of this in its proper context, I’ll start by saying that I am a first-generation American. I am first-generation American whose father was forced to flee from his own country — a former Communist regime — as a political refugee.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

So I am a patriot. I love this country. Under normal circumstances, my faith in America is unshakable. But I must admit, my faith has taken a beating lately. And on Wednesday morning, it almost crumbled. Almost. But not quite.

I woke up on Wednesday morning feeling ashamed, embarrassed, disgusted, angry, and sad. All at once.

But please don’t misunderstand. I was not upset about the outcome. I was still upset about the choice I was forced to make when I cast my ballot. I say “still,” because I was angry about the election before I went to the polls.

Those who don’t learn from (American) history….

In the days, weeks and months leading up to the presidential election eight years ago, many Americans were screaming for change. They wanted anyone in the Oval Office — as long it wasn’t anyone remotely resembling George W. Bush.

Then they voted accordingly.

And look what that got us. A deeply divided country. Heightened racial tensions. A stagnant economy. A pitiful attempt at universal healthcare. A diminished presence on the world stage. And for the most part, an angry, uninformed, uneducated, hyper-partisan electorate forced this year to choose between two of the worst presidential candidates in the history of the United States.

And look what that got us.

The lowest common denominator and the height of tyranny…

To quote from the label on the back of one of my favorite micro-brews, “We believe that pandering to the lowest common denominator represents the height of tyranny — a virtual form of keeping the consumer barefoot and stupid.”

From the moment he announced his candidacy, Donald J. Trump did just that. And the “lowest common denominator” — that angry, uneducated, uninformed, hyper-partisan electorate — responded accordingly. Congratulations, America. You did great!

That Vladimir Putin was one of the first, if not the first foreign leader to congratulate President-Elect Donald J. Trump, speaks volumes.

That a terrorist organization and a sworn enemy of this country has allegedly told the president-elect that everything will be peachy — as long as we pull everyone out of Afghanistan — also speaks volumes.

Clearly our country is in great hands.

And don’t you dare tell me, “at least he’s better than Hillary Clinton.” I really, really, really do not want to hear it. That argument didn’t hold water before the election, and it certainly doesn’t have any merit now.

To quote Alexis de Tocqueville…

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start prattling on about “getting the government we deserve,” a post-election sentiment often attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville. But I will end with this: if you honestly believe that President Donald J. Trump will make good on his promise to “Make America Great Again,” you are sadly, sadly mistaken. And that’s putting it nicely.

You see it is not up to him — or any elected leader, for that matter — to restore this country’s greatness. That is up to each and every one of us.

As de Tocqueville said, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Defending the indefensible: the demise of American decency

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So I was really looking forward to writing about something fun today. I was planning on writing about the use of feral cats to curb the rat population in New York City. Frankly I think it’s genius.

Unfortunately I’ve got more serious things on my mind. Or more accurately, with the U.S. election looming, there’s something important I’ve got to get off my chest. So the post about feral cats being put to work in the Big Apple will just have to wait.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Today I am completely fed up — not only with presidential politics — but with hyper-partisan behavior in general. Americans on both sides of the aisle are happily defending the indefensible and justifying their behavior by saying “well at least he’s not as bad as she is,” or vice-versa.

Frankly it is deeply disturbing on many levels — for many reasons. But the partisan defense of the indefensible is especially troubling when it comes to Donald J. Trump’s (actual and alleged) behavior, Bill Clinton’s (actual and alleged) behavior and Hillary Clinton’s (actual and alleged) behavior.

Let’s begin with Donald J. Trump and Former President Bill Clinton. Both men have been accused of committing serious crimes against women. Trump is currently facing numerous sexual assault allegations. Yet Trump’s supporter loudly proclaim, “at least he’s not as bad as Bill Clinton.” Or something to that effect.” For his part, Former President Clinton has also been accused of sexual assault — and rape.

If nothing else, both men have demonstrated a proclivity for objectifying women. As everyone knows by now, Trump’s tendency to do so recently surfaced when his comments caught on that “hot mic” 11 years ago became public. As for Bill Clinton — well, there was that affair with a White House intern while he was president — among other things. Allegedly.

So what is the objectification of women? Objectification is commonly defined as “viewing and/or treating a person as an object, devoid of thought or feeling.” The definition of sexual objectification is ” the reduction of people to physical objects of sexual desire.”

So what’s the big deal? According to The Huffington Post, a recent study that included nearly 300 participants found that “over one-third of the participants had experienced sexual victimization as defined by the study.” The study also found that participants who experienced unwanted sexual advances — and worse — also reported experiencing objectification at one time or another.

In that sense, the study didn’t break new ground. It merely confirmed prior findings. It also confirmed what I witnessed as a crime reporter. As soon as someone stops seeing a person or group of people as human beings, it is easy to engage in criminal activity targeting that person or group of people.

In other words, it’s all “locker room talk” and “boy talk” until people get hurt. And then it’s not so funny anymore.

Listen Up, Ladies…

If there’s one thing worse than a man who mistreats women, it’s a woman who defends him. Hillary Clinton — who may very well be the leader of the free world come January — is accused of not only enabling her husband’s behavior, but verbally attacking his accusers.

And then there’s Melania Trump, who recently blamed everyone except Donald J. Trump for the comments that he made back in 2005. To her, Donald’s comments were just “boy talk.”

Really? Unbelievable.

Listen up, ladies. It is not okay. It is not acceptable. It is not a joke, and it is not funny.

It is inexcusable. And indefensible.

Period.

Actually words do matter, Mr. Trump

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It is with great trepidation that I am sharing my opinion on recent events in this forum.

As I have mentioned before, this is a business site — and while I have chosen to address controversial issues and share personal experiences here — I have also taken great pains to stick to apolitical topics.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

The decision to do so is largely a matter of common sense, given the ugliness of U.S. presidential politics and the candidates currently involved therein. Furthermore, I am a private person who generally has little desire to air my personal opinions publicly.

However, there are times when I simply cannot remain silent. So today, I am writing to refute U.S. presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s assertion that the lewd and vulgar remarks he made about women 11 years ago are of little consequence.

To begin with, let’s examine Trump’s claims that the remarks were simply “locker room talk” that he engaged in during a private conversation, and that they are not indicative of his true feelings about women.

There are two specific reasons why these claims lack merit.

The first is based upon my personal experience. Having been around plenty of public figures as a journalist, I can say with great certainty that you will very rarely, if ever, see the genuine person when they are in the spotlight. In public, every single second is contrived. Why? Because they know they are being watched. It is only in the private, unguarded moments when they feel safe and at ease, that you will see the person’s true character. So in my humble opinion and experience, the words Trump uttered when he had no reason to fear being caught are definitely indicative of his true character.

The second, and more important is that in Connecticut, where he once had a home and now owns at least one luxury high-rise that I know of, the activity Trump so callously described in his alleged “locker room talk” is a crime. The relevant portion of C.G.S. §53a-72a states that someone is guilty of sexual assault in the third degree when they compel “another person to submit to sexual contact (A) by the use of force against such other person or a third person, or (B) by the threat of use of force against such other person or against a third person, which reasonably causes such other person to fear physical injury to himself or herself or a third person…” The offense is a Class D felony, punishable upon conviction by up to five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $5,000.

To brag about wanting to, or being able to engage in such conduct — specifically kissing women without their consent or grabbing them by their private parts — and then chalking it up to “locker room talk” is inane at best, and arguably symptomatic of depraved thinking at worst.

Now as Trump and his supporters rightfully contend, it is not illegal to say what he said, as long as he never actually acted on it. And, as Trump and his supporters contend, there are some people who may not find his remarks vulgar, offensive or morally reprehensible at all. Frankly, I don’t know who they are — and I don’t want to know. But I digress.

In the last few days, Trump has repeatedly attempted to mitigate his own behavior by drawing comparisons to things former President Bill Clinton has allegedly said and done. However, his insistence that his verbal denigration of women pales in comparison to Clinton’s alleged and actual sexual transgressions also falls flat for one extremely significant reason.

If elected, Donald J. Trump will find himself in a position where a poor choice of words can have very, very, serious consequences — because words are very powerful.

Throughout the ages, words have been used as weapons and used as tools to broker peace. They have spurred men to action. They have sparked revolutions. They have been used to ensure the punishment of the guilty, and for the wrongful indictment of the innocent. Historically, words have been used to lift people from the depths of despair and to beat them into submission. Words have shaped countries and cultures and people.

The greatest dissidents, the greatest thinkers, the greatest leaders of all time, were known not only for what they did, but for what they said, and what they wrote.

So actually, Mr. Trump, words do matter.

An open letter to young girls and women everywhere

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Dear Sisters,

I am writing to you as someone who is finally comfortable in her own skin.

It has been a long and difficult journey.

From what I’ve been told (and what I remember) I was a precocious little girl, with a vivid imagination and a flair for the dramatic. But as a little girl and teenager, I also experienced verbal and emotional abuse. At home, my father constantly put me down. At school, my classmates bullied me.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

I suppose I was an easy target. I was always a little bit overweight. I had eczema and asthma. I wore a patch and/or glasses to correct my “lazy” eyes. I wasn’t athletic. I wasn’t stupid, but I was never the smartest kid in class. I wasn’t a gifted musician or a dancer or an artist… The things that seemed to come so easily to other kids were always harder for me

I lacked self-confidence and experienced low self-esteem. I was afraid of being laughed at and I was afraid to fail. I am sure some of you can relate.

In high school, things finally changed for the better. A teacher helped me discover a hidden talent. I discovered that I could write. My confidence blossomed. But it was fragile. And I was still young.

In the ensuing years came the joys and sorrows of college, college romance, entry into “the real world,” engagement, marriage and divorce. At 30, I moved back “home” to recover from the bitter blow that ended my marriage to the man I planned on being with forever. At 34, I moved to Virginia for a new job and a much-needed change of scenery.

Alone in a new place, I made my share of mistakes. I trusted the wrong people. I misjudged alleged friends. After eight-and-a-half years, I lost my job. But by the time I returned home for the second time, I’d written a book — and I’d found myself.

Today I am hardly perfect. But I am happy being me. Finally.

And if there’s anything I hope you can learn from my story, it is the following:

  • Each of you is unique.
  • Each of you matters.
  • Each of you deserves to be loved.
  • Each of you deserves respect.
  • Each of you has something meaningful to share with the rest of the world.

Ultimately your worth is defined not by your physical appearance, but by the choices you make and the values you hold. You can allow others to govern your emotions, or you can take control of them yourself.  You can live up to other people’s expectations or set your own. You can measure your beauty by “conventional” and societal standards, or ignore them and live by your own. You can measure your success by your material possessions or by the difference you’ve made. You can let the world beat you down. Or you can summon the courage to hold your head up high. No matter what.

It’s all up to you.

Love,

Alexandra


Author’s note: The preceding was written in response to recent news accounts about U.S. presidential candidate Donald J. Trump’s lewd, sexist and misogynist comments caught on tape in 2005.