Sunday, December 23, 2007

If voting for Obama is a roll of the dice, as Bill suggests, voting for Billary is a sure bet: an endless soap opera.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Stewart and Colbert to Return

In a statement, the two hosts said they would prefer to return to work with their writers. “If we cannot, we would like to express our ambivalence, but without our writers we are unable to express something as nuanced as ambivalence,” they stated.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rich Pickings: A vote for faith in America itself

I think Frank Rich's piece in today's NYT gets it exactly right. I have the audacity to hope so:

"...Or is it because Mrs. Clinton’s shrill campaign continues to cast her as Nixon to Mr. Obama’s Kennedy?...

"But it just may be possible that the single biggest boost to the Obama campaign is not white liberal self-congratulation or the Clinton camp’s self-immolation, but the collective nastiness of the Republican field. Just when you think the tone can’t get any uglier, it does. ...

"For those Americans looking for the most unambiguous way to repudiate politicians who are trying to divide the country by faith, ethnicity, sexuality and race, Mr. Obama is nothing if not the most direct shot. After hearing someone like Mitt Romney preach his narrow, exclusionist idea of “Faith in America,” some Americans may simply see a vote for Mr. Obama as a vote for faith in America itself."

May it be so.

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Orthodox rabbi's plea: let's be honest here


By Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

The question of whether we could bear a redivision of Jerusalem is a searing and painful one. The Orthodox Union, National Council of Young Israel and a variety of other organizations, including Christian Evangelical ones, are calling upon their constituencies to join them in urging the Israeli government to refrain from any negotiation concerning the status of Jerusalem at all, when and if the Annapolis conference occurs. And last week, as I read one e-mail dispatch after another from these organizations, I became more and more convinced that I could not join their call.

It's not that I would want to see Jerusalem divided. It's rather that the time has come for honesty. Their call to handcuff the government of Israel in this way, their call to deprive it of this negotiating option, reveals that these organizations are not being honest about the situation that we are in, and how it came about. And I cannot support them in this.

These are extremely difficult thoughts for me to share, both because they concern an issue that is emotionally charged, and because people whose friendship I treasure will disagree strongly with me. And also because I am breaking a taboo within my community, the Orthodox Zionist community. "Jerusalem: Israel's Eternally Undivided Capital" is a 40-year old slogan that my community treats with biblical reverence. It is an article of faith, a corollary of the belief in the coming of the Messiah. It is not questioned. But this final reason why it is difficult for me to share these thoughts is also the very reason that I have decided to do so. This is a conversation that desperately needs to begin.

No peace conference between Israel and the Palestinians will ever produce anything positive until both sides have decided to read the story of the last 40 years honestly. On our side, this means being honest about the story of how Israel came to settle civilians in the territories it conquered in 1967, and about the outcomes that this story has generated.

An honest reading of this story reveals that there were voices in the inner circle of the Israeli government in 1967-1968 who warned that settling civilians in conquered territories was probably illegal under international law. But for very understandable reasons -- among them security needs, Zionist ideologies of both the both secular and religious varieties, memories that were 20 years old, and memories that were 3,000 years old -- these voices were overruled. We can identify with many of the ideas that carried the settlement project forward. But the fact remains that it is simply not honest on our part to pretend that the government of Israel didn't know that there was likely a legal problem, or that the government was confident that international conventions did not apply to this situation. That just wouldn't be an honest telling.

An honest reading of the story reveals that the heroes of Israel's wars who became the ministers in its government, who were most responsible for the initial decision to settle, were quite aware that by doing so they were risking conflict with the Arab population that was living there. They were aware that these Arabs would never be invited to become citizens of Israel, and would never have the rights of citizens. Nonetheless, they decided to go forward. Some believed that the economic benefit that would accrue to these Arabs as a result of their interactions with Israelis and Israel would be so great that they wouldn't mind our military and civilian presence among them. Others projected that some sort of diplomatic arrangement would soon be reached with Jordan that would soften the face of what would otherwise be full-blown military occupation. These may have been reasonable projections at the time. But as it turned out, both of them were wrong. And it's not honest to tell the story without acknowledging that we made these mistakes.

The Religious Zionist leadership (similar to today's Evangelical supporters of Israel) made a different judgment, namely that settling the Biblical heartland would further hasten the unfolding of the messianic age. Thus, the Arab population already there was not our problem. God would deal with it. This belief too -- reasonable though it may have seemed at the time -- has also turned out to be wrong. To tell the story honestly, this mistake too must be acknowledged.

And the difference that honest storytelling makes is enormous. When we tell our story honestly, our position at the negotiating table is one that is informed not only by our own needs and desires, but also by our obligations and responsibilities. The latter include the responsibility to -- in some way, in some measure -- fix that which we have done. Also included is the need to recognize that we have some kind of obligation toward the people who have been harmed by our decisions. Honesty in our telling of the story reveals the stark and candid reality that we also need to speak the language of compromise and conciliation. Not only the language of entitlement and demands.

To be sure, I would be horrified and sick if the worst-case division-of-Jerusalem scenario were to materialize. The possibility that the Kotel, the Jewish Quarter or the Temple Mount would return to their former states of Arab sovereignty is unfathomable to me, and I suspect to nearly everyone inside the Israeli government. At the same time though, to insist that the government not talk about Jerusalem at all (including the possibility, for example, of Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods) is to insist that Israel come to the negotiating table telling a dishonest story -- a story in which our side has made no mistakes and no miscalculations, a story in which there is no moral ambiguity in the way we have chosen to rule the people we conquered, a story in which we don't owe anything to anyone. Cries of protest, in particular from organizations that oppose Israel's relinquishing anything at all between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, and which have never offered any alternative solutions to the ones they are protesting against, are rooted in the refusal to read history honestly. And I -- for one -- cannot lend my support to that.

Without a doubt, the Palestinians aren't telling an honest story either. They are not being honest about their record of violence against Jews in the pre-State era, or about the obscene immorality with which they attacked Israeli civilians during the second intifada. They are not being honest about the ways in which their fellow Arabs are responsible for so much of the misery that they -- the Palestinians -- have endured, and they certainly are not being honest about the deep and real historical connection that the Jewish people has to this land and to this holy city. And there will not be peace (and perhaps there should be no peace conference) until they tell an honest story as well. But for us to take the approach that in order to defend and protect ourselves from their dishonest story, we must continue telling our own dishonest story, is to travel a road of unending and unendable conflict. Peace will come only when and if everyone at the table has the courage, the strength, and enough fear of God to tell the story as it really is.

For many decades we have sighed and asked, "When will peace come?" The answer is starkly simple. There will be peace the day after there is truth.

Yosef Kanfesky is rabbi of B'nai David Judea in Los Angeles.

Naomi Chazen

By Naomi Chazan Published: 10/16/2007

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Uninformed readers of the general American press these days learn only two things about Israel. One is that it is consumed with war and peace. The other is that this small state of 7 million people deploys -- or does not, depending on whom you are reading -- the most powerful, homogenous lobby in Washington, bending the American government’s actions to its interests at will.

American Jews know better, of course. The quest for a fair and sustainable settlement to conflict in the Middle East is indeed central, but the peace process is not the only challenge of Israel’s continuing struggle for survival as the state its founders intended it to be.

Important, too, are issues that define Israel as a society, as a homeland for Jews, as a democracy. In the long run these and related topics will contribute as much as military and diplomatic matters to answering the question of whether Israel will survive another 60 years.

Since serving as deputy speaker of the Knesset, I have spent more of my time on what I call the struggle for Israel’s character. As a democracy with a thriving civil society, there is plenty of scope for argument in Israel over issues ranging from minority rights to religious freedom. However, there are also voices of extremism, intolerance and ultranationalism that threaten not just the Israeli ideal of a liberal, democratic state but the very mechanisms that allow us to fiercely debate the issues that will define our future.

For example, the independence of Israel’s High Court, the most important guarantor of rights in a country without a written constitution, is under siege from right-wingers inside and outside the government who would like to subject it to political manipulation.

The struggle to impede the theocratic objectives of religious parties continues, with progressives working hard just to prevent further encroachment on what should be a firm religion-state divide.

Perhaps most important, and difficult, is the growing chasm between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens, as some of the former continue to perpetuate de facto inequality, and the latter react with an increasingly radicalized vision of an Israel bereft of any identifying Jewish characteristics.

Moreover, Israel is a country facing increasing socio-economic discrepancies. The widening gap between the prosperous Israeli center and the struggling peripheries in the Galil and Negev was exacerbated by last summer’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and the difficult recovery in the North.

Overall, the prospects for immigrant youth, Israeli Arabs, mizrachim -- citizens from Middle Eastern and North African lands -- residents of development towns, Bedouin and all the other outsiders to Israel’s thriving economy remain severely constricted.

Women confront gender rights issues every day, and not just in the Orthodox and Israeli Arab communities. The disgusting parade of Israeli politicians accused and found guilty of sexual harassment and worse is the most visible indicator of a society struggling to overcome serious problems with patriarchy.

These and similar issues constantly, if not always consciously, affect the relations between Israel and world Jewry. The notion of a single-minded American pro-Israel lobby that only reflects the worldview of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee -- Walt and Mearsheimer notwithstanding -- is ridiculous.

In the next week I will be engaging, along with other Israeli progressive social activists, in a nine-city national conversation sponsored by the New Israel Fund titled “Towards a Progressive Vision for Israel.”

Anyone attending these events for even an hour no doubt would conclude that much of the American Jewish community is to the left of some of its “official” spokesperson organizations, and that this large segment deserves a louder voice on key Israel-related issues.

Achieving a more powerful voice for these Jewish voices in the United States is crucial for two reasons. First, the taboo of criticizing Israel must be broken. The issue is not whether Israel is always right or always wrong, as the current discourse aridly asserts. Rather the question is how to deal constructively and creatively with Israel's very real problems. The debate about Israel must be reframed.

Second, the majority of Israeli citizens -- who have achieved real successes advocating in an open, argumentative, self-critical society -- need support from their American counterparts. When the most visible American backers of Israel are the Likud-fellow-traveler Jewish groups and the Christian right, it is almost impossible to counter those powerful and well-financed voices and the retrogressive values they champion.

Americans, whether Jewish or not, deserve more than a sound-bite understanding of what Israel is and where it may be going. Beyond the heartfelt support that most Americans feel for Israel are real dilemmas for the only fragile yet working democracy in the Middle East.

Most Israelis see the threat of religious ultranationalism, minority repression and economic inequity all too clearly. It is time for true democrats in both Israel and the United States to challenge themselves with the reality of Israel in its 60th year: a vibrant, thriving country still striving for ideals not yet attained.

(Naomi Chazan, former deputy speaker of the Knesset, is professor emerita of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and head of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo. She is a member of the New Israel Fund board of directors.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Conservatives and Al Gore's Nobel | Campaign for America's Future

Conservatives and Al Gore's Nobel | Campaign for America's Future: "'...the big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart.' -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Yale Law Women Releases 2nd Annual List of the Top Ten Family-Friendly Firms

California Newswire » : By Valerie Gotten
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Yale Law Women (YLW), the largest student organization at Yale Law School, announces the release of its 2007 Top Ten Family-Friendly Firms list. Phoenix-based firm Quarles & Brady received top honors, followed by Proskauer Rose; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer; Jenner & Block; Mayer Brown; Covington & Burling; Arnold & Porter; DLA Piper; Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, PC; and Faegre & Benson. YLW seeks to emphasize the need for firm employment policies that facilitate work-life balance for attorneys. The DC Women’s Bar Association’s report, Creating Pathways to Success, indicates that 70% of lawyers with children-both men and women-report work-life conflict. Due largely to inflexible work demands, firms face an ongoing retention problem with young associates. “If firms are to recruit and retain attorneys, they must change their work environments to not only accommodate but support lawyers with families,” said YLW Activism Co-Chair Jill Habig. Fellow Co-Chair Katie Wilson-Milne stated, “This list is a way to celebrate those firms that have taken important steps toward helping attorneys have both a family and a successful career.”

YLW analyzed firms from Vault’s Top 100 Law Firms and Best of the Rest lists. The variables used were selected based on a survey of Yale Law School alumni, who ranked in order of importance a list of family-friendly law firm policies. Categories included maternity/paternity leave, childcare, and alternative work arrangements, among others. All data was collected from the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) directory.

Monday, September 17, 2007

U.K. Hospitals Issue Doctors' Dress Code

New York Times:
Hospital dress codes typically urge doctors to look professional, which, for male practitioners, has usually meant wearing a tie. But as concern over hospital-borne infections has intensified, doctors are taking a closer look at their clothing. ''Ties are rarely laundered but worn daily,'' the Department of Health said in a statement. ''They perform no beneficial function in patient care and have been shown to be colonized by pathogens.''"

Times to End Charges on Web Site

New York Times:
The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight tonight. The move comes two years to the day after The Times began the subscription program, TimesSelect, which has charged $49.95 a year, or $7.95 a month, for online access to the work of its columnists and to the newspaper’s archives. TimesSelect has been free to print subscribers to The Times and to some students and educators. In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free. The Times said the project had met expectations, drawing 227,000 paying subscribers — out of 787,000 over all — and generating about $10 million a year in revenue. “But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising..."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Social Sites Cater to People of a Certain Age

New New York Times:
"Social networking has so far focused mainly on businesspeople and young people because they are tech-savvy and are treasured by Madison Avenue. But there are 78 million boomers — roughly three times the number of teenagers — and most of them are Internet users who learned computer skills in the workplace. Indeed, the number of Internet users who are older than 55 is roughly the same as those who are aged 18 to 34, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a market research firm."

Court Won’t Rule on Life’s Beginning - New York Times

Court Won’t Rule on Life’s Beginning - New York Times

LibraryThing | Catalog your books online

LibraryThing | Catalog your books online

Gary Hart: J'Accuse

The Huffington Post:
"This administration stands indicted for incompetence and mendacity. That it still commands the loyalty of even a quarter of our fellow citizens is testament to the persistence of willful ignorance. Against all the facts assembled in this indictment, that the administration's operatives can still make claims on strength, security, and determination is chutzpah on stilts. That the media still treat these operatives and spokespersons, and indeed the president himself, seriously is witness to their desire for 'access' and 'sources' rather than their commitment to the truth. America is today under the steady gaze of billions of the world's citizens and even more under the examining lens of history. Nothing is more difficult than to admit that we made a tragic mistake in selecting our leaders. But that is the first step toward redemption. Absolute rejection of those who lay claim to ownership of security is the next. We are too old to behave as adolescents any longer. That includes particularly our president. America must grow up. We must redeem ourselves in the name of those who lost their lives unnecessarily six years ago. We must reclaim our dignity and our honor from those who have neither."

Some interesting and relevant themes for Rosh Hashanah in America.
(not to speak of Hart's invocation of "chutzpah on stilts"!)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Boys Cast Out by Polygamists Find Help

Boys New York Times: By ERIK ECKHOLM
ST. GEORGE, Utah — Woodrow Johnson was 15, and by the rules of the polygamous sect in which his family lived, he had a vice that could condemn them to hell: He liked to watch movies.

When his parents discovered his secret stash of DVDs, including the “Die Hard” series and comedies, they burned them and gave him an ultimatum. Stop watching movies, they said, or leave the family and church for good.

With television and the Internet also banned as wicked, along with short-sleeve shirts — a sign of immodesty — and staring at girls, let alone dating them, Woodrow made the wrenching decision to go. And so 10 months ago, with only a seventh-grade education and a suitcase of clothes, he was thrown into an unfamiliar world he had been taught to fear.

Over the last six years, hundreds of teenage boys have been expelled or felt compelled to leave the polygamous settlement that straddles Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

Disobedience is usually the reason given for expulsion, but former sect members and state legal officials say the exodus of males — the expulsion of girls is rarer — also remedies a huge imbalance in the marriage market. Members of the sect believe that to reach eternal salvation, men are supposed to have at least three wives. ...

“In part it’s an issue of control,” Mr. Murphy said of the harsh rules. But underlying the expulsions, he added, is a mathematical reality. “If you’re going to have plural marriage, you need fewer men,” he said.

Andrew Chatwin, 39, the uncle who took Woodrow in, left the sect 10 years ago. He explained how the expulsions usually happen: “The leaders tell the parents they must stop this kid who is disobeying the faith and Warren Jeffs. So the parents kick him out because otherwise the father could have his wives and whole family taken away.”...

Mr. Gilbert estimates that 100 boys from his school class, or 70 percent of them, have been expelled or left on their own accord; there is no way to verify the numbers. “There are a lot of broken-hearted parents, but you question this decision at the risk of your own salvation,” Mr. Gilbert said.

The problem of surplus males worsened in the 1990s when the late prophet Rulon Jeffs, Warren Jeffs’s father, took on dozens of young wives — picking the prettiest, most talented girls, said DeLoy Bateman, a high school teacher who watched it happen.

Warren Jeffs, taking the mantle after his father’s death in 2002, adopted most of his father’s wives and married others, and also began assigning more wives to his trusted church leaders, former members say. Forced departures increased. ...

Prisons Purging Books on Faith From Libraries

Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries. ...

Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency was acting in response to a 2004 report by the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. The report recommended steps that prisons should take, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.”...

“It’s swatting a fly with a sledgehammer,” said Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship, a Christian group. “There’s no need to get rid of literally hundreds of thousands of books that are fine simply because you have a problem with an isolated book or piece of literature that presents extremism.”...

The lists are broad, but reveal eccentricities and omissions. There are nine titles by C. S. Lewis, for example, and none from the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth and Cardinal Avery Dulles, and the influential pastor Robert H. Schuller. ...

“Otisville had a very extensive library of Jewish religious books, many of them donated,” said David Zwiebel, executive vice president for government and public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish group. “It was decimated. Three-quarters of the Jewish books were taken off the shelves.”

Mr. Zwiebel asked, “Since when does the government, even with the assistance of chaplains, decide which are the most basic books in terms of religious study and practice?” ...

“Government does have a legitimate interest to screen out things that tend to incite violence in prisons,” Mr. Laycock said. “But once they say, ‘We’re going to pick 150 good books for your religion, and that’s all you get,’ the criteria has become more than just inciting violence. They’re picking out what is accessible religious teaching for prisoners, and the government can’t do that without a compelling justification. Here the justification is, the government is too busy to look at all the books, so they’re going to make their own preferred list to save a little time, a little money.”...

There are some well-chosen things in here,” Professor Larsen said. “I’m particularly glad that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is there. If I was in prison I would want to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” But he continued, “There’s a lot about it that’s weird.” The lists “show a bias toward evangelical popularism and Calvinism,” he said, and lacked materials from early church fathers, liberal theologians and major Protestant denominations. ...

Fracas Erupts Over Book on Mideast by a Barnard Professor Seeking Tenure

New York Times: "Dr. Abu El-Haj has some opponents at her own college. “There is every reason in the world to want her to have tenure, and only one reason against it — her work,” said Alan F. Segal, a professor of religion and Jewish studies at Barnard. “I believe it is not good enough.” He said he was particularly troubled by her suggestion that ancient Israelites had not inhabited the land where Israel now stands, and he said that she had either misunderstood or ignored evidence to the contrary. “She completely misunderstands what the biblical tradition is saying,” he added. “She is not even close. She is so bizarrely off.” He also said that a Barnard official, whom he declined to name, had asked him to suggest people who were not Jewish to comment on Dr. Abu El-Haj’s work for the tenure review, and that he had refused."

Friday, September 7, 2007

This is our second annual Constitution Day quiz. Constitution Day is September 17th. Federal law now requires that educational institutions that receive federal funds hold an 'educational program' on the Constiution. Give this handy quiz to everyone on your campus — students, professors, administrators, staff, even members of the hockey team — and happily avoid the suspension of millions of dollars of federal research money. 1. In the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress suspended the writ of habeas corpus for alien enemy combatants detained at Guantánamo Bay. The Constitution, however, stipulates that Congress can suspend the writ only 'in cases of rebellion or invasion.' We can therefore conclude: 1. We have been invaded. 2. We are in the midst of a rebellion (against the government, not against the Constitution itself). 3. The Military Commissions Act is unconstitutional. 4. The Constitution does not protect evil suspects. 5. The founding fathers intended to make an exception for Gitmo. ...

Print: Psychologists, Under a Historian's Lens By THOMAS BARTLETT
As the American Psychological Association debates whether its members should be involved in so-called coercive interrogation, Alfred W. McCoy is trying to get psychologists to own up to their past. Mr. McCoy, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, is the author of A Question of Torture: CIA Inter­rogation From the Cold War to the War on Terror (Metropolitan Books, 2006). The book is a detailed indictment, brimming with outraged accusations — what one reviewer called 'a flashlight beaming into the dark closets of government.' It is also a book that has come under fire for alleged distortions and overstatements. Mr. McCoy has been criticized for suggesting that two towering figures in the discipline, Donald Hebb and Stanley Milgram, worked with the Central Intelligence Agency. He has also been accused of being too quick to see nefarious connections between psychologists and the government, and of basing grand conclusions on skimpy evidence. In a paper to be published next month by the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, he takes on his detractors and digs further into the 'deep, dark' history of psychology.

"If you don't diagnose the disease," asks Mr. McCoy, "how can you find the cure?"...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jewish students at American Universities

More Jewish students choose the University of Florida than any other public university, while New York University is their top pick among private universities. That’s according to a list of the 60 most popular college campuses for Jewish undergraduates, published as the Insider's Guide to College in this month’s Reform Judaism magazine. The popularity list used raw numbers, and the list was divided by public and private institutions. The University of Florida in Gainesville heads the list in the public category for the second year in a row with 5,500 Jewish undergraduates. Next are the University of Central Florida and the University of Maryland, College Park, each with 5,000 Jewish undergraduates. York University in Toronto and Rutgers University in New Jersey each have 4,500 Jewish undergraduates. Among private universities, New York University has 4,000 Jewish undergraduates, followed by Boston University, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania with 3,000 each. Yeshiva University ranks fourth on the list of private schools with 2,810 Jewish undergraduates. Not surprisingly, Yeshiva heads the guide's list showing the 20 colleges with the highest percentage of Jews -- 93.5 percent of its undergraduates are Jewish. Next is Brandeis University with 61.7 percent, then Barnard College with 43.5 percent. The Ivy League schools with the highest percentage of Jewish students are Harvard and Penn, with 30 percent each.

Israeli court hands down order to reroute West Bank barrier : CAROLYNNE WHEELER
JERUSALEM -- After 2 ½ years of a fight marked by tear gas and rubber bullets, the Battle of Bilin seems at last to have an end in sight, after a rare Israeli Supreme Court ruling ordering the army to reroute a part of its separation barrier near this West Bank village. 'We are ecstatic about the court's decision ... It is a step in the right direction,' Abdallah Abu Rahmeh, a village resident and one of the protest organizers, said in a telephone interview yesterday. Palestinians have been joined by Israeli and foreign activists in protests at Bilin since February, 2005, when the growing barrier of fortified fencing equipped with sensors began to separate farmers from their olive groves and orchards, effectively allotting the land to the nearby Jewish settlements of Modiin Illit. Each week, a few dozen protesters would show up to trade slogans and stones for the tear gas, the rubber bullets and batons of the soldiers pushing them back.

D.C. Appeals to Supreme Court on Gun Law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The District of Columbia on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that struck down the city's 30-year-old ban on private handgun ownership. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it could lead to its first direct ruling on the Second Amendment since 1939. Mayor Adrian Fenty announced the appeal on the steps of police headquarters: 'The bottom line is we do not need more guns in this city.' The district argues that the Second Amendment prohibits only federal interference in the rights of states to maintain citizen militias, but does not cover the ability of citizens to own handguns privately for other purposes. It argues that states have the right to regulate gun ownership and that the district should be treated like a state. A federal appeals court panel ruled in March that the district's broad gun law was unconstitutional.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Who Founded Facebook? A New Claim Emerges

New York Times: "In an interview at a cafe here this week, Mr. Greenspan said he had mostly made peace with the fact that Mr. Zuckerberg will be the first of his classmates to become a billionaire."

Oliver Sacks - Columbia University

New York Times:
The new appointment will allow Dr. Sacks, the author of 10 books and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, to range freely across Columbia’s departments, teaching, giving public lectures, conducting seminars, seeing patients and collaborating with other faculty members. Many of the details of his appointment have yet to be worked out, but among other things, he will be teaching in the university’s creative writing department as well as at the medical school. “My first year at Columbia is going to be, to some extent, a year of experiment and exploration,” Dr. Sacks said. “I very much look forward to meeting students and faculty and doing classes that could be about almost anything, from music to psychiatry to whatever.”...

Dr. Sacks’s appointment is “a commitment both to having one of the great clinical neuroscientists in our midst and one of the great writers about this subject, but also a commitment to try to take that and reach out to other fields and human activities,” Mr. Bollinger said.

The university has committed $20 million to expanding the study of neuroscience to include an interdisciplinary approach, and last year it received a donation worth more than $200 million from Dawn M. Greene and the Jerome L. Greene Foundation to build a new center to house the university’s Mind, Brain and Behavior Initiative, which will help apply neuroscience to multiple areas of scholarship.

For his part, Dr. Sacks said he was looking forward to returning to the classroom. At Albert Einstein, he said, he had not taught formally since 1973. “I’ve actually missed it,” he said. He added: “In a way, for me, this is a real entrance into university life such as I’ve never had, rather than a part-time medical appointment. I’m excited, because, in a way, I’ve been a sort of an outsider or freelancer or maverick for the last 40 years, and here I think it will be quite an intense sort of full relationship with Columbia.”

Dr. Sacks said that although he was looking forward to exploring disciplines outside medicine, his clinical work would remain a focus, not least because it inspires so much of his writing.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jack Bauer: Eco-Warrior. Friend of Garofalo. Federal Agent.

TNR: "How Liberal Can '24' Get? Flower Bauer by Daniel Chun
'24''s upcoming seventh season appears to mark a different direction for the conservative-leaning action drama. First, producers cast a female president. Then they struck a plan to make the show's production more environmentally friendly, leading to a 'carbon-neutral' season finale. And last week, they cast Janeane Garofalo as federal agent Janis Gold. We got our hands on some scripts from the next season, and it looks a new era for the show. A sneak peek:
EPISODE 1: 12:00 AM - 1:00 AM Int. CTU - day JACK BAUER talks to JANIS GOLD.
JANIS GOLD Our source tells us that the terrorists' plan is blow up Broward Dam. This would create mass flooding, cut power to the entire state, and destroy the habitat of the tidewater goby.
JACK BAUER Dammit! Without that goby, what will our local heron population eat?
JANIS GOLD Try not to think about that.
JACK BAUER I can't help it! Every link in the food chain matters! Jack punches his hand through a wall.
JACK BAUER (CONT'D) Chloe, get me a schematic of the dam's facilities.
CHLOE O'BRIAN I'm on it. Let me power up my". Let me power up my computer.

Chloe mounts an exercise bike connected to a power generator into which her computer is plugged. She pedals furiously. Her computer slowly boots up.

We don't have much time, Chloe! Pedal harder!

Chloe pedals harder.

(to Jack, proudly) Did you know that just ten minutes of pedaling powers her computer for an hour?

Not to mention burns calories and improves my heart health.

Jack nods, impressed and a little inspired. ...

Why Do So Many Americans Dislike Academe? Evan Goldstein
Why Do So Many Americans Dislike Academe? The prospect of promotion to the status of full professor has Timothy Burke in a reflective mood. In particular, he has been thinking about why he has maintained his blog, Easily Distracted, for the past five years. Burke, who teaches at Swarthmore, describes his blogging as an effort to better understand how the society at large relates to academe. 'I blog because I want to understand how we’re seen, to hone my own ability to enter a wider public conversation, and to think about what it is that scholars and educators need to do to reform their own practices,' Burke writes. 'I want to understand where we are at fault, where public critics of academia may be mistaken or malicious in their views, and where we’re entangled in some much more complex social matrix that isn’t easily encompassed by debates within the public sphere.' Burke argues that 'all that is valuable and productive about higher now very much at stake politically in a way that it has not been in Western society since the mid-19th century.' In a very lengthy post, which is worth the effort of reading in full, Burke explores why Americans are so dismissive or hostile to academic institutions and academic professionals.

Idaho Governor Faces Speculation on Senate Seat

New York Times:
BOISE, Idaho — If Senator Larry E. Craig yields to calls for his resignation amid allegations that he solicited sex in an airport bathroom, his successor would be chosen by a fellow Republican who once entered a tight-jeans contest — and won.

Gov. C. L. Otter, known as Butch, was lieutenant governor when he won the “Mr. Tight Jeans” contest at the Rockin’ Rodeo bar here in the state capital in July 1992. A few days later he was arrested, and eventually convicted, for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Now, after having gone on to serve three terms in the House of Representatives before being elected governor last year, Mr. Otter knows better than most what voters in this deeply conservative state will tolerate when it comes to the private behavior of public officials. “As a public servant who has made mistakes in my private life, I am mindful that you don’t really know who your friends are, until you stumble,” he told reporters here this week.

Where do they come up with these people?

Robert D. Novak: Small Shoes at Justice
Robert D. Novak
I first met Gonzales in 2001 when, along with other conservative journalists, I went to the White House for a background briefing by presidential counsel Gonzales on the new president's judicial nominations. I was stunned by the incoherence of the briefer. When I checked with several Republican senators, I received the same verdict. Their judgment was that Gonzales was not qualified to hold a senior governmental position.
Gonzales's handling of the crisis over the firing of U.S. attorneys set new standards for incompetence. In the midst of the furor, he agreed to address the National Press Club on May 15 (insisting on breakfast instead of the usual lunch). It was by chance the 44th anniversary of this column, and I concluded that in all those years I had never seen anything like it.

Novak, the legendary journalistic "prince of darkness", is pretty much a jerk (and a hack, and a partisan flack)in my (long time) estimation. His judgment and sense of public duty are pretty well summed up by a simple juxtaposition: he chose to out Valerie Plame as a CIA analyst to punish Joe Wilson for (and deter others from) challenging the phony Bush-Cheney case for war, while withholding this (apparently widely shared) recognition of Gonzales' incompetence, until it could do no good. Thanks a lot, Bob.

Maybe W will award him a Medal of Freedom for his mis-spent career.

Southern Illinois President Faces Allegations He Plagiarized His Dissertation

The president of Southern Illinois University, Glenn Poshard, is being forced to defend his 1984 dissertation against accusations that it contains numerous examples of plagiarism and improper citation. The student newspaper at the university's Carbondale campus, the Daily Egyptian, did a detailed examination of his dissertation and presented its findings to Mr. Poshard this week. He told the newspaper that he was very busy when the dissertation was completed. 'This is not an excuse, and I would never offer it up as an excuse, but at that point in my life, I had a family,' he was quoted as saying. 'I worked two jobs. I was running for the Illinois State Senate. I was trying to get my dissertation finished.' Mr. Poshard received his Ph.D. in education from Southern Illinois at Carbondale. Through a spokesman, Mr. Poshard declined an interview request from The Chronicle, but the spokesman said Mr. Poshard would respond to the allegations after he had had a chance to review them. The allegations are the latest in a series of accusations of plagiarism against top officials at Southern Illinois. Last year Mr. Poshard asked the chancellor of the university's Carbondale campus, Walter V. Wendler, to step down after revelations that portions of a strategic plan Mr. Wendler put together came from an earlier strategic plan he helped write for Texas A&M University at College Station (The Chronicle, November 9, 2006).

Mr. Wendler's copying was brought to light by a group of professors and students close to Chris Dussold, an assistant professor of finance at Southern Illinois at Edwardsville who was fired in 2004 for copying his two-page teaching statement (The Chronicle, February 10, 2006). After his dismissal, Mr. Dussold and a group of supporters set out to uncover examples of plagiarism at the university in order to prove that he had been treated unfairly. Mr. Dussold has filed a lawsuit against the university for wrongful termination. ...

There are several examples in the dissertation of what might be called classic plagiarism: Passages are lifted verbatim, or near verbatim, with no citation given. In one instance, a 68-word passage from another source is used without quotation marks or citation. The two passages are identical except for a single word change: Mr. Poshard has substituted "a" for "another."

In another example, an 80-word section, also lacking quotation marks or citation, is taken from another source with only a few minor changes -- such as switching a verb from "has been" to "was."

In addition, there are numerous examples in which Mr. Poshard appears to disregard the accepted rules of crediting someone else's work. While he may cite a particular source, he often fails to place quotation marks around passages he uses verbatim. For instance, Mr. Poshard writes that "It has become almost axiomatic to say that the welfare of the world rests significantly with the utilization of the potential of the gifted youth to solve social, economic, ecological, political, and human problems."

He cites the source but does not indicate that the passage is copied nearly word for word. There are so many examples of such practices that the dissertation seems as if it has been cut-and-pasted from other sources. Mr. Poshard told the student newspaper that no one on his dissertation committee told him that he had to use quotation marks.

U. of Dubuque Settles With Professor Who Sued Over Ban on Public Criticism By Andrew Mytelka
The University of Dubuque has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a former professor’s unfair-termination lawsuit that raised the question of whether the university was seeking to stifle criticism, according to the Telegraph Herald, a local newspaper. The professor, Paul F. Jeffries, won tenure in philosophy and religion in 2005 and was subsequently offered a special chair in which he would teach ethics and speak about ethical topics as part of a newly endowed “character initiative.” He balked, however, at contract provisions that said his salary would stay the same and that said he would have to pay it back if he ever made “any disparaging, denigrating, or otherwise critical statements” about the university to reporters. Shortly after he complained, the university said he would be removed from his new post and sent back to the philosophy and religion department, without tenure. He refused to accept the demotion, left the university, and filed suit. His lawyer told The Chronicle in 2006 that the contract provision on criticism, even though a requirement of all faculty members at Dubuque, contradicted the purpose of the character initiative. Under the settlement, approved by a judge on Tuesday, the university will pay Mr. Jeffries $50,000 but admit to no breach of contract.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mitt Romney shivs his pal Larry Craig

Slate Magazine: By John Dickerson
...We don't have to guess about what Goldwater would do. During the 1964 presidential campaign, he faced almost precisely the same issue. In October, the Goldwater campaign learned that Walter Jenkins, LBJ's closest aide, had been arrested on a 'morals charge' in the YMCA bathroom. According to J. William Middendorf's account of that campaign, A Glorious Disaster, Goldwater's aides wanted to use the scandal against Johnson, who was well ahead in the polls. Jenkins was not only a security risk—open to blackmail— but long before he was arrested, there were allegations he'd used his influence with then-Vice President Johnson to get an Air Force general who had been busted on a morals charge reinstated. The Goldwater aides even tried out slogans: 'Either way with LBJ.'
Goldwater insisted that they make no use of it. The story never came up during the campaign. This may say more about Goldwater's personal decency than it does about his governing philosophy. Jenkins had served in Goldwater's Air Force Reserve Unit, and as Goldwater later wrote, 'It was a sad time for Jenkins' wife and children, and I was not about to add to their private sorrow. Winning isn't everything. Some things, like loyalty to friends or lasting principle, are more important.' Mitt, you're no Barry Goldwater.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Everybody (On Campus) Digs Barack Obama

On Faith: Georgetown Blog:
The results of my scientific poll of scholars of religion and theology at various universities (n = 14) have now been tabulated. The question asked was: “With which current presidential aspirant would you most like to sit down and discuss issues pertaining to faith—Church/State issues, Gnostic Gospels, Schleiermacher, anything?” Save one stray vote for former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, every professor I spoke to expressed a preference for the same candidate. If, like me, you believe that the titles of classic Jazz albums are repositories of timeless wisdom and wit, then my campus findings may be summarized by the title of Bill Evans' 1958 masterpiece: “Everybody digs Barack Obama.” Incontrovertible proof of the Academy’s liberal bias, this adulation for the Senator from Illinois? Perhaps. Yet he does possess qualities that make him uniquely attractive to people with advanced degrees in religious studies and other subjects. Obama can sound awfully professorial, as opposed to wonkish, when discussing issues pertaining to faith. The decade he spent as a lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago has clearly left its mark. When reading or listening to him analyze questions of public policy and religion many scholars undoubtedly experience the pleasure of recognition. They may even conclude--somewhat narcissistically-- that “Senator Obama is one of us!”

All presidential candidates must weave what I call “a narrative of faith.” Here again, Obama offers something out of the ordinary. The generic storyline of a Protestant aspirant for High Office goes something like this. Candidate X was once an OK Christian. Then a traumatic episode occurred which solidified his or her faith, resulting in deepened spiritual awareness. Candidate X emerged from these travails a better, stronger Christian--a “hard champion” of godly virtue (Here, using the title of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ 1985 album).

Mr. Obama’s narrative is rather different. As a child, he was schooled in both Catholic and Muslim institutions. Too, there is reason to believe that prior to his later-life baptism he was under-churched or non-churched and may even have flirted with a casual sort of non-belief. All of these experiences tincture his thinking on religion with more sophistication and edge than any other candidate in the race.

Last, as regards religious imaging, God Talk, and so forth, Senator Obama is a very original and cunning operator. Much in the way that he manages to constantly criticize the Democratic Party all the while portraying himself as the embodiment of a Democrat, Obama can lampoon the faith and values game while playing it with extraordinary skill. His quip about the “politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps (off rhythm) to the gospel choir” is a classic zinger. It is a mustard-filled paint-ball aimed at John Kerry that then ricochets directly into one of Hillary Clinton’s preferred photo-ops.

Of course, the types of politicians who mesmerize the theology professors are rarely the ones who sway the American electorate. Opposition Research teams may also dig Barack Obama, as we shall soon see.

Posted by Jacques Berlinerblau on August 27, 2007 9:44 AM

Blessings and Curses

AJWS Commentary:
Within the narrative of blessings and curses in Parshat Ki Tavo, God sets out clear expectations for how we should behave, making it clear that this is not a covenant of faith, but one of deeds. Contemporary Jewish philosopher David Hartman contends that the blessings and curses are not literally inflicted upon humans in response to their observance or nonobservance of commandments. Hartman argues, instead, that our Torah enumerates these curses and blessings in order to emphasize the grave importance of acting with holiness and thereby actualizing God's presence in our midst. The blessings and curses are provided as a symbolic reminder of our covenantal obligations, reinforcing our commitment to a covenant rooted in action.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel also invokes our covenant with God when he asserts that the blessings and curses are meant to impart a sense of our partnership with the divine as we struggle to cope with good and evil. Simply observing the Torah's written laws is not enough to continually bring sanctity into our lives. The Torah not only narrowly stipulates that certain acts are prohibited, but also broadly demands that we accept our responsibility to realize a sustainable and just society. Heschel understands the significance of our deeds both as signs of our covenantal relationship and as active agents of change in our surroundings:

It is in the deeds that human beings become aware of what life really is, of their power to harm and to hurt, to wreck and to ruin; of their ability to derive joy and bestow it upon others...The deed is the test, the trial, and the risk. What we perform may seem slight, but the aftermath is immense."

Understood this way, mitzvot ben adam l'chavero - those commandments that guide human relationships - really actualize our covenant with God. The majority of the mitzvot detailed in this parshah focus on supporting just and compassionate relationships with other human beings - in effect, offering guidelines for the creation of just communities. Prohibitions against subverting the rights of the stranger, secretly harming a neighbor, and accepting bribes support the universal human rights we seek to uphold in our social justice work. The Torah champions human integrity and dignity, and our literary tradition further elevates this with the assertion that the highest form of tzedakah is to help someone become self-sufficient.

JTS Weekly Torah Commentary

-R. Marc Wolf - JTS Weekly Torah Commentary:
The sixteenth-century Italian commentator Moshe Hefetz writes on this verse in his commentary on Ki Tavo, 'You witnessed all those great wonders but only appreciated their full significance just now, at this time, after they had receded from view, as if you had to this point lacked sight and hearing' (Milekhet Mahshevet, Warsaw Ed., 315). Hefetz is observing that the people of Israel did not understand the miracles because they needed distance from them. It was their time in the desert, wandering, gaining perspective, and experience and growing as a people that allowed them to appreciate the full significance of the miracles. ...

The true significance of the Exodus was not in the signs and wonders, but in the time it took for the people to become Israelites. Their experience in the desert served as the vehicle for transformation from a wandering mass to a People ready to live as a Nation in the Land of Israel. Moses' statement, then, cannot be viewed as a critique, but as a compliment. B'nai Israel had made it through the desert and had matured into the people with "the mind to understand, the eyes to see and the ears to hear."

With Judaism, we are continually in and out of "the woods." This month of Elul leading up to the High Holidays is time in "the woods." Elul has traditionally been the month for introspection, a month to take our individual heshbon ha'nefesh (accounting of our soul) and examine our relationship with God. It is a period to develop as individuals to emerge like b'nai Israel from the desert with the mind, ears, and eyes we need to approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

On Legal Education

As we prepare to embark on the new academic year, I have repositioned for more convenient access the following series of entries on legal education originally posted on March 27 and 28, 2007. Comments are welcome.

Toward a kindler, gentler (and more intellectually rigorous) law school: Epigram

It has been observed that my proposal (posted in four parts, below) is long, dense, and convoluted (and has too many parenthetical inserts (which make it hard (and very irritating) to read)).
Got it.

Could I possibly try to distill my message to something people might actually read?
Sure. Here goes (standing on one foot):

Our graduates should have the courage to take on established power, and the skills enabling them to do so effectively.

The rest is commentary.
Now go and study.

With apologies to the Jewish first-century sage, Hillel, asked by a Gentile to summarize the whole Torah while standing on one foot. (On my reading of the sources, it is somewhat obscure whether it was Hillel or his interlocutor who was standing on one foot, and whether the inquiry was sincere or sarcastic. Maybe an especially well-informed and/or industrious reader can help. You may sit down while doing your research.)

I. Toward a kinder, gentler (and more intellectually rigorous) law school--Introduction (rev'd 3/27/07)

March 20 Aardvark* proposal by Alan J. Weisbard

What sort of learning environment do we, faculty and students together, wish to create here at UW Law School?

As a member of the British House of Lords, Baroness Whitaker, recently stated (quoting Mark Twain in summarizing the attitude of many of her colleagues toward proposed reforms): “I’m all for progress; it’s change I can’t stand.”

Most discussions of educational policy are incremental to a fault. Motivated by our current circumstances, I would like to propose a more far reaching and radical discussion, taking us to the roots of our enterprise together.

My proposal is predicated on a particular view of that enterprise. We, the faculty of the law school, are training our students to function as legal professionals. Given the roles that lawyers have played historically in our society, and seem likely to continue to play for the foreseeable future, we are also training our students to function as public citizens. You, our students, will enjoy the opportunities and bear the burdens associated with civic and political, as well as professional, leadership and influence.

Lawyers and public citizens require courage, commitment and fortitude as well as technical competence. As lawyers, many of us tend particularly to our distinctive garden: the formulation and enforcement of legal rules of conduct. Here at Wisconsin, we also study and pursue the law in action. Both are necessary and important. But there is more: the cultivation, development and pursuit of lives of virtue and service to others.

From my perspective, we don’t do nearly enough to inculcate, reinforce or value these virtues as law teachers or as a law school. What we do in this domain, we probably do best through our clinical programs. More is required of us, not least in modelling for our students lives of integrity, courage, and service.

There has been much twaddle in American academia of adopting a “marketplace” model of the educational process. According to this model, students are consumers, seeking a credential to advance their careers; faculty are providers of a service. (Entertainment value is a bonus.) At its far extreme, we as students and teachers become mutually complicit in seeking to effectuate this bargain at least personal cost or bother. To exaggerate somewhat for effect, information flows from the professor’s lecture notes, through the student’s laptop, to the student’s blue book, with as little lasting or transformational impact on the student’s brain cells as is necessary to the credentialing purpose of the transaction. Then we go about the real business of our lives, outside the classroom, and we congratulate one another on a job well done.

This is not what I sought as a student. It is not why I, or most of my colleagues, became a teacher.

The times require us to articulate a better model of our mutual enterprise.

II.Toward a kinder, gentler (and more intellectually rigorous) law school --Proposal (rev'd)

What follow are some preliminary thoughts in that direction, a proposed model of a more collegial and mutually respectful educational process for our law school. The model demands more from all of us, teachers and students alike. I suspect that few will agree with all of its implications and entailments. Much help will be needed from students and fellow faculty members to think it through and, perhaps, to test it in practice, on an experimental basis. Perhaps it will be of interest to legal educators and law students elsewhere, but my primary focus is on UW.

The model rests on the conception that faculty are senior colleagues, and students are junior colleagues (and responsible adults), engaged in the shared enterprise of training future professionals. The model presumes respect, of one another and of the importance of the joint enterprise. It also presumes responsibilities as well as rights, again going in both directions.

Most fundamentally, we as students and teachers share a responsibility to and for the collective educational project. We all learn from one another, in ways conducive to life-long learning, the cultivation of professional skills, and service to our clients and our communities.

In this model, we value diversity, in substantial part, because of its tremendous liberating potential to expand the range of perspectives and life experiences from which we can all learn, as well as for the opportunity to learn to work effectively with others who differ, in all kinds of ways, from ourselves and our own experiences of the world (and of the self). We also promote diversity to enhance the likelihood of extending the reach of affordable and high quality legal assistance to all elements of the community, particularly to those currently not adequately served by the existing legal profession.

The world, and the social and professional realities we inhabit, are not simple ones. Conflicts are rife, and our society has gone a long way in approving the single-minded pursuit of individual gain, while downplaying elements of community, solidarity, and a fair-minded regard for the needs of others.

Some of this is inescapable in the human condition, and it has found its place within our halls. Law school is a competitive place (perhaps less intensely so at Wisconsin that at some other institutions). “The system” is set up (here as virtually everywhere else) so that some advance their own prospects at the expense of others, creating resentment, disillusionment, and intellectual and emotional withdrawal by all too many of our students. This is perhaps most obvious in our system of examinations, recommended and quasi-mandatory curves, and grades. (Recent grading reform may help some, but I would argue not enough, on this score.) It is powerfully and sadly reflected in widespread negative student attitudes toward fellow students who speak in class with “too much” frequency, seriousness, preparation, or engagement.

These issues also bear a disheartening relationship to the supposed traditional model of the faculty-student “Socratic” exchange, as portrayed in One L or The Paper Chase, in which sadistic professors, abusing their superior authority, knowledge, and experience, demean and humiliate students who cannot live up to impossible standards.

I experienced some (but relatively little) of this behavior in my own education. To be candid, I thought at the time, and now even more so in retrospect, that a measure of experience learning to survive attack and to respond quickly and effectively to intellectual intimidation was probably good for my development as a lawyer (and to my masculine identity; I suspect there may well be an important gendered aspect of this, worthy of discussion in its own right). From discussions with (particularly male?) faculty colleagues of a certain age, I suspect that others also look back on such experiences with a peculiar mix of nostalgia, pain, and gratitude.

Times and practices have changed since those years, mostly for the better. I do not emulate this model in my own teaching, and have not seen much of it in my colleagues’ teaching here at Wisconsin. I do understand that some students may perceive their experience here as a (perhaps somewhat muted) form of my hyperbolic description. We need to talk more openly about this.

The nature of our surrounding environment also affects our reality in a second, and at least equally important sense. If we are to respond effectively as lawyers and public citizens to a world that is complex and rife with conflict, we must seek to understand it, both through the production of knowledge (our research mission) and through the fearless examination of sometimes uncomfortable and emotionally-frought realities of life around us. We must learn to engage with competing perspectives and arguments, many of which we (in perhaps differing ways) will also find distasteful, or even offensive.

As lawyers and as legal educators, we are committed to the proposition that the best response to “bad” positions is through better development and use of complex evidence and through better arguments. Better arguments, by and large, are developed through careful and critical scrutiny of what makes the competing arguments tick, both in their internal logic and in the ways they depend on what we perceive to be incorrect beliefs and only partial truths.

The skills of an effective lawyer vitally depend on this capacity for critical examination. The process by which this capacity is cultivated (and made memorable to our students) is intrinsically an edgy and sometimes risky one. Even when done with the utmost skill and sensitivity, and with dedication to the objective of a more just society (as I think is characteristically the case here at Wisconsin), it will sometimes miscarry. Offense may be given, and feelings may be hurt. It comes with the territory.

To abandon the territory is to be derelict in our responsibility to train students properly to be professionals and public citizens. The trick is to find a way to turn that offense, and those hurt feelings, back into the classroom, to advance our collective learning (certainly including the learning of the teacher).

The great “teachable moments” often come in such circumstances. One of the tragedies of recent weeks is that we have not--at least thus far--adequately taken advantage of the potential teaching moment created by the compounded miscommunications and misunderstandings that have brought such pain to our community. The March 20 Forum was a useful start. But there are further discussions and hard work to come, if we are to make the most of this moment of opportunity. Let us not allow this precious occasion for collective reflection, engagement, and constructive change be lost in our understandable shared desire to put recent difficulties behind us.

Please, engage.

III. Toward a kinder, gentler (and more intellectually rigorous) law school --Concluding Reflections (rev'd)

Now to step back for a moment. I believe in academic freedom, defined in fairly expansive terms. The academic community must fight, often against powerful external actors, to protect freedom of thought and freedom of speech, even when those freedoms are exercised in ways we find distasteful, offensive or just plain wrong. (And we are free – indeed, obligated – to speak out against the substance of “wrong” ideas, without compromising the principle of academic freedom.) Professors should not risk their employment when they explore controversial ideas, even, and perhaps especially, when those ideas are unpopular, perhaps even hateful. (I put to the side deliberate personal insults and clearly discriminatory practices in the classroom, which should be neither tolerated nor protected.) That sets what I would consider the inimal or enforceable standard for faculty conduct. But it does not end the discussion.

There should also, I believe, be a more aspirational standard or set of communal norms at play, reflecting our widely shared commitment to the kind of open, respectful and sensitive learning environment that we seek to create. In such an environment, all members of a diverse community can feel fully at home and able to flourish.

Those who violate these norms in the exercise of legitimate academic freedom should risk not their employment, but their good names and reputations among colleagues, students, and the community. The lines here are not easy to draw, and differing recollections may make confident judgment difficult in evaluating some instances. Recognizing that others will differ on this point, I would argue that when students are offended by an arguably proper and good faith exercise of our teaching function, the first recourse should normally (unless this is demonstrably futile) come in the classroom, where engaged discussion can contribute to our shared learning. Where conflicts persist, we as an academic community must treat our offended students with compassion and support, but must also stand ready to rally to protect the good name of our colleagues when we are convinced, after due inquiry, that they are acting in good faith in the honest pursuit of our calling as law teachers.

Filling in the content of these aspirational communal norms, and learning how better to pursue them in the classroom, is one of the challenges we face in attempting to move beyond the expression of fine sentiments toward concrete transformational actions that will make our law school a more active, collaborative and mutually respectful place for learning together. I do not think it will be easy. I do believe we will dramatically improve our chances of getting close to this target in a law school community more like the one I have tried to sketch out here.

I would be delighted to receive constructive comments on the ideas expressed herein. Please submit your comments directly on the blog. Thank you.

IV. Toward a kinder, gentler (and more intellectually rigorous) law school--A beginning agenda of topics for further discussion (rev'd)

Please find below my own list of topics intended to create an agenda for further discussion and debate as we move this process forward in future meetings. Others are welcome and encouraged to add to them.


>How do we achieve fuller, shared recognition that students are responsible adults training to be legal professionals? How do we determine the mutual expectations that should follow from this recognition?

> Should we establish an honor code governing student behavior, to be developed and administered, in whole or in substantial part, by students?

>Can we substantially enhance opportunities (in addition to existing clinical opportunities) for collaborative work, both among students and in combined groups of students and faculty? Can we find ways to surmount obstacles posed by existing patterns of individual grading?

>Can we provide more frequent and timely opportunities for students to receive meaningful and constructive feedback on the quality of their work, both at the end of term and while courses are still underway and improvement is possible?

>Can we find more effective and timely opportunities for students to provide meaningful and constructive feedback to faculty on the quality of their teaching, both at the end of term and while courses are still underway and improvement is possible?

>Can we enhance opportunities for students who find difficulty in speaking in class to find ways of sharing their views and perspectives with teacher and classmates through more effective use of technology (such as email lists and class e-discussion boards)? How can we more effectively help students to improve their public speaking abilities and self-confidence in speaking before groups?

>Can we provide regular opportunities for students, as individuals or in groups, to share distinctive aspects of their backgrounds and perspectives through presentations to a substantial law school audience? Such presentations, which might come from first generation professional/college students, students from rural and small town upbringings, foreign-born students, and students from working class families, as well as members of different racial, ethnic, linguistic, gender, and sexual-orientation groups, would allow all of us to reap more fully the benefits of our diverse community.

>Can we reconsider the appropriate use of laptops in the educational process? Considerations here might vary, depending on class size, the amount of lecture vs. more interactive forms of learning, the objectives and teaching style of the professor, the nature of the material being taught, and other factors. One area of concern is the amount of non-class-related web browsing, emailing and instant messaging, and other behaviors distracting to others as well as the student engaging in the activity. A second potential concern is the need for future lawyers to train their memories and learn not to rely unduly on notes. Perhaps most important is the need for full student presence, engagement and participation in class discussion, which should not be viewed as a distraction from the compilation of a complete stenographic record of the proceedings.

> Can we reconsider the impact of our grading system (noting recent reforms) on placing undue emphasis on small (and often not meaningful) distinctions across the broad middle of the class, resulting in unnecessary stress and competition and adversely affecting potentially innovative modes of teaching and evaluating student work?

I would be delighted to receive constructive additions to the topics listed above. Please post comments directly on the AGENDA-10: DISCUSSION BOARD (posted March 28 am)on this blog. Thank you.

Discussion Board Project for UW Law

I am establishing individual discussion boards for each of the topics on my agenda for change. (See background on my March 27 series of postings, "Toward a kindler, gentler (and more intellectually rigorous) law school (revised since the March 20 Forum). Please post comments directly on the relevant discussion board. Discussion board 10 is currently reserved for suggestions for additional topics--I will establish additional discussion boards for new suggested topics as circumstances warrant.

Suggestions and comments on my analysis and proposal can be made directly on the relevant March 27 entries.

Comments will be moderated, but with a relatively light hand, to facilitate a respectful, civil and relatively orderly discussion.

Agenda-1: Discussion Board-Students Are Responsible Adults

How do we achieve fuller, shared recognition that students are responsible adults training to be legal professionals? How do we determine the mutual expectations that should follow from this recognition?

Agenda-2: Discussion Board-Student Honor Code

> Should we establish an honor code governing student behavior, to be developed and administered, in whole or in substantial part, by students?

Agenda-3: Discussion Board-Collaborative Work

>Can we substantially enhance opportunities (in addition to existing clinical opportunities) for collaborative work, both among students and in combined groups of students and faculty? Can we find ways to surmount obstacles posed by existing patterns of individual grading?

Agenda-4: Discussion Board-Feedback on Student Work

>Can we provide more frequent and timely opportunities for students to receive meaningful and constructive feedback on the quality of their work, both at the end of term and while courses are still underway and improvement is possible?

Agenda-5: Discussion Board-Feedback on Teaching

>Can we find more effective and timely opportunities for students to provide meaningful and constructive feedback to faculty on the quality of their teaching, both at the end of term and while courses are still underway and improvement is possible?

Agenda-6: Discussion Board-Public Speaking

>Can we enhance opportunities for students who find difficulty in speaking in class to find ways of sharing their views and perspectives with teacher and classmates through more effective use of technology (such as email lists and class e-discussion boards)? How can we more effectively help students to improve their public speaking abilities and self-confidence in speaking before groups?

Agenda-7: Discussion Board-Learning from Our Diversity

>Can we provide regular opportunities for students, as individuals or in groups, to share distinctive aspects of their backgrounds and perspectives through presentations to a substantial law school audience? Such presentations, which might come from first generation professional/college students, students from rural and small town upbringings, foreign-born students, and students from working class families, as well as members of different racial, ethnic, linguistic, gender, and sexual-orientation groups, would allow all of us to reap more fully the benefits of our diverse community.

Agenda-8: Discussion Board-Laptops/Presence

>Can we reconsider the appropriate use of laptops in the educational process? Considerations here might vary, depending on class size, the amount of lecture vs. more interactive forms of learning, the objectives and teaching style of the professor, the nature of the material being taught, and other factors. One area of concern is the amount of non-class-related web browsing, emailing and instant messaging, and other behaviors distracting to others as well as the student engaging in the activity. A second potential concern is the need for future lawyers to train their memories and learn not to rely unduly on notes. Perhaps most important is the need for full student presence, engagement and participation in class discussion, which should not be viewed as a distraction from the compilation of a complete stenographic record of the proceedings.

Agenda-9: Discussion Board-Grading System

> Can we reconsider the impact of our grading system (noting recent reforms) on placing undue emphasis on small (and often not meaningful) distinctions across the broad middle of the class, resulting in unnecessary stress and competition and adversely affecting potentially innovative modes of teaching and evaluating student work?

Agenda-10: Discussion Board--Additional Topics

Please use this discussion board for suggestions of additional topics for discussion.

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's elemental.

Tom Lehrer's "The Elements". A Flash animation by Mike Stanfill, Private Hand

Embattled Attorney General Resigns

New York Times:
"The official who disclosed the resignation in advance today said that the turmoil over Mr. Gonzales had made it difficult for him to continue as attorney general. “The unfair treatment that he’s been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department,” the official said. ...

On Saturday night Mr. Gonzales was contacted by his press spokesman to ask how the department should respond to inquiries from reporters about rumors of his resignation, and he told the spokesman to deny the reports.

Good to the very last drop...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hebrew Charter School Spurs Dispute in Florida

New York Times: By ABBY GOODNOUGH Published: August 24, 2007
HOLLYWOOD, Fla., Aug. 23 — The new public school at 2620 Hollywood Boulevard stands out despite its plain gray facade. Called the Ben Gamla Charter School, it is run by an Orthodox rabbi, serves kosher lunches and concentrates on teaching Hebrew.

About 400 students started classes at Ben Gamla this week amid caustic debate over whether a public school can teach Hebrew without touching Judaism and the unconstitutional side of the church-state divide. The conflict intensified Wednesday, when the Broward County School Board ordered Ben Gamla to suspend Hebrew lessons because its curriculum — the third proposed by the school — referred to a Web site that mentioned religion.

Opponents say that it is impossible to teach Hebrew — and aspects of Jewish culture — outside a religious context, and that Ben Gamla, billed as the nation’s first Hebrew-English charter school, violates one of its paramount legal and political boundaries. But supporters say the school is no different from hundreds of others around the country with dual-language programs, whose popularity has soared in ethnically diverse states like Florida.

“It’s not a religious school,” said Peter Deutsch, a former Democratic member of Congress from Florida who started Ben Gamla and hopes to replicate it in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. “South Florida is one of the largest Hebrew-speaking communities in the world outside Israel, so there are lots of really good reasons to try to create a program like this here.”

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Scientists Induce Out-of-Body Sensation

Using virtual reality goggles, a camera and a stick, scientists have induced out-of-body experiences — the sensation of drifting outside of one’s own body — - in healthy people, according to experiments being published in the journal Science. Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image Tej Tadi A reprensentation of one of the scenarios scientists used to study out-of-body experiences. When people gaze at an illusory image of themselves through the goggles and are prodded in just the right way with the stick, they feel as if they have left their bodies. The research reveals that “the sense of having a body, of being in a bodily self,” is actually constructed from multiple sensory streams..."

Usually these sensory streams, which include vision, touch, balance and the sense of where one’s body is positioned in space, work together seamlessly, Prof. Botvinick said. But when the information coming from the sensory sources does not match up, when they are thrown out of synchrony, the sense of being embodied as a whole comes apart.

The brain, which abhors ambiguity, then forces a decision that can, as the new experiments show, involve the sense of being in a different body.

The research provides a physical explanation for phenomena usually ascribed to other-worldly influences...

Legal Questions Remain for Freed Scholar in Iran

TEHRAN, Aug. 22 — Haleh Esfandiari, the Iranian-American scholar freed on bail after three months in prison, is waiting for Iranian judicial officials to inform her whether the travel ban against her will be lifted and a new passport issued to allow her to return to the United States, her husband and her lawyer said Wednesday.

Grace Paley, Writer and Activist, Dies - New York Times

New York Times: By MARGALIT FOX
Grace Paley, the celebrated writer and social activist whose acclaimed short stories explored in precise, pungent and tragicomic style the struggles of ordinary women muddling through everyday lives, died Wednesday at her home in Thetford Hill, Vt. She was 84 and lived most of her life in Manhattan before moving to Vermont in 1988....

Ms. Paley was among the earliest American writers to explore the lives of women — mostly Jewish, mostly New Yorkers — in all their dailyness. She focused especially on single mothers, whose days were an exquisite mix of sexual yearning and pulverizing fatigue. In a sense, her work was about what happened to the women that Roth and Bellow and Malamud’s men had loved and left behind.

To read Ms. Paley’s fiction is to be awash in the shouts and murmurs of secular Yiddishkeit, with its wild onrushing joy and twilight melancholy. For her, cadence and character went hand in hand: her stories are marked by their minute attention to language, with its tonal rise and fall, its hairpin rhetorical reversals and its capacity for delicious hyperbolic understatement. Her stories, many of which are written in the first person and seem to start in mid-conversation, beg be read aloud. ...

A self-described “somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist,” Ms. Paley was a lifelong advocate of liberal social causes. During Vietnam, she was jailed several times for antiwar protests; in later years, she lobbied for women’s rights, against nuclear proliferation and, most recently, against the war in Iraq. For decades, she was a familiar presence on lower Sixth Avenue, near her Greenwich Village home, smiling broadly, gum cracking, leaflets in hand.

Italy’s American Baggage

In the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, it seemed immediately clear to many in Europe and the United States that their arrest in 1920 — initially for possession of weapons and subversive pamphlets, then on a charge of double murder committed during a robbery in Massachusetts — the three trials that followed, and their subsequent death sentences were intended to make an example of them. And this regardless of the utter lack of evidence against them and in spite of defense testimony by a participant in the robbery who said he’d never seen the two Italians. The perception was that Sacco, a shoemaker, and Vanzetti, a fishmonger, were the victims of a wave of repression sweeping Woodrow Wilson’s America. In Italy, committees and organizations condemning the sentence sprouted up as soon as it was announced. By the time the sentence was carried out in 1927, Fascism had been in power in Italy for nearly five years and was brutally consolidating its dictatorship, persecuting and imprisoning anyone hostile to the regime — including anarchists, naturally. And yet when Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, the biggest Italian daily, Milan’s Corriere della Sera, did not hesitate to give the story a six-column headline. Standing out glaringly among the subheads was the assertion: “They were innocent."

One can, perhaps, distinguish between a miscarriage of justice and the issue of ultimate innocence.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sacco and Vanzetti :It was 80 years ago today...

Nicola Sacco (April 22, 1891 – August 23, 1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (June 11, 1888 – August 23, 1927) were two Italian-born American anarchists, who were arrested, tried, and executed via electrocution in Massachusetts for the charge of murder and theft. There is much controversy regarding their guilt, stirred in part by Upton Sinclair's 1928 novel Boston. Critics of the trial have accused the prosecution and trial judge of allowing anti-Italian, anti-immigrant, and anti-anarchist sentiment to influence the jury's verdict. ...

While the prosecution staunchly defended the verdict, the defense, led by radical attorney Fred Moore, dug up many reasons for doubt. Three key prosecution witnesses admitted they had been coerced into identifying Sacco at the scene of the crime. But when confronted by DA Katzmann, each changed their stories again, denying any coercion. In 1924, controversy continued when it was discovered that someone had switched the barrel of Sacco's gun. Three weeks of private hearings followed but the mystery was never solved. Other appeals focused on the jury foreman and a prosecution ballistics expert. In 1923, the defense filed an affidavit from a friend of the jury foreman who swore that prior to the trial, the man had said of Sacco and Vanzetti, "Damn them, they ought to hang them anyway!" That same year, a state police captain retracted his trial testimony linking Sacco's gun to the fatal bullet. Captain William Proctor claimed that he never meant to imply the connection and that he had repeatedly told DA Katzmann there was no such connection but that the prosecution had crafted its trial questioning to hide this opinion.

Adding to the growing conviction that Sacco and Vanzetti deserved a new trial was the conduct of trial judge Webster Thayer. During the trial, many had noted how Thayer seemed to loathe defense attorney Fred Moore. Thayer frequently denied Moore's motions, lecturing the California-based lawyer on how law was conducted in Massachusetts. On at least two occasions out of court, Thayer burst into tirade. Once he told astonished reporters that "No long-haired anarchist from California can run this court!" According to onlookers later who swore out affidavits, Thayer also lectured members of his exclusive clubs, calling Sacco and Vanzetti "Bolsheviki!" and saying he would "get them good and proper." Following the verdict, Boston Globe reporter Frank Sibley, who had covered the trial, wrote a scathing protest to the Massachusetts attorney general condemning Thayer's blatant bias. Then in 1924, after denying all five motions for a new trial, Thayer confronted a Massachusetts lawyer at his alma mater, Dartmouth. “Did you see what I did with those anarchistic bastards the other day?" the judge said. "I guess that will hold them for a while! Let them go to the Supreme Court now and see what they can get out of them!” The outburst remained a secret until 1927 when its release heightened the suspicion that Sacco and Vanzetti had not received a fair trial. ...

FDA Approves Seconds

The Onion :

WASHINGTON, DC—In a surprising reversal of its longtime single-helping policy, the Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of seconds Tuesday, claiming that an additional plateful of food with every meal can greatly reduce the risk of hunger as well as provide an excellent source of deliciousness. ... Addressing what it calls a 'growing epidemic of cravings and hankerings,' the federal agency recommended redesigning food labels to prominently display extra-serving sizes and pledged to better educate consumers on how to make informed additional-portion choices at home and in restaurants....

"We've found that eating seconds is essential for keeping up the country's strength."

"Besides, with people starving in other parts of the world, it would be an absolute shame to let our nice food supply all go to waste," the commissioner added. ...

"Seconds may not be suitable for everyone," von Eschenbach said. "Especially those who suffer from heart disease, those at risk for diabetes, people trying to lose weight, and women."

The FDA also recommended moderation in consuming seconds. Researchers in the seconds field have noted occasional side effects, such as hardly being able to get up from the table, pants-loosening, drowsiness, and the feeling that one "might explode" if one eats just one more bite.

This probably hurts me more than it hurts most of you.

The lingering danger to children from lead

Slate MagazineBy Darshak Sanghavi

Mattel's recent recall of more than 1 million toys coated with lead paint has left parents feeling that their children's health was risked by poor safety procedures. So far, it's unknown whether the toys have harmed anyone. But as parents rush to doctors' offices to test their toddlers, many are bound to discover their children possess sm
all amounts of lead...

Unfortunately, recent medical evidence shows even trace amount of lead—at amounts now considered acceptable by the CDC—can damage a child's IQ. Why regulators refuse to believe the data continues a decades-old exercise in willful ignorance. And it's children who are still paying the price.

Doctors have known for more than a century that children could develop seizures and comas from severe lead toxicity, and that surviving victims were frequently brain-damaged. The question has become—and remains—how much lead is too much? Though federal authorities refuse to admit it, it's increasingly clear that no safe threshold for lead exists, and even the tiniest amount can hurt children's developing brains. ...

Initially, the Centers for Disease Control thought kids' brains could tolerate up to 60 mcg/dl of lead because no seizures occurred at that level. But in 1979, Dr. Herbert Needleman reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that lead levels considered safe by the CDC—though far lower than needed to produce seizures and coma—correlated with lower IQs in children. Later, his group reported that lead-poisoned children were more likely to drop out of school and have reading disabilities.

But lead controls were slow in coming, due to powerful industry resistance. ...

Serious damage happens at levels now considered safe for millions of American kids. The data should have galvanized public-health authorities to pursue zero-tolerance lead policies, which would mean nationwide de-leading of unsafe homes. After all, the New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2001 that medicines can't recover lost IQ points from lead poisoning. Once gone, they're gone forever.

Yet no de-leading program happened. Instead, opponents of comprehensive lead removal blatantly politicized the latest science and hatched an economic justification for inaction. ...

Meanwhile, though the Mattel toys have been recalled, little has been done about the wider threat to kids from lead paint. Removing leaded paint (mostly from housing built before the 1970s) can cost tens of thousands of dollars per dwelling, for a total tally of $58 billion nationwide, according to a 2000 EPA report. But progress halted over a pointless debate over the dollar value of a child's IQ points. In 2000, the EPA estimated that national de-leading would ultimately cost taxpayers about $8,000 per saved IQ point. Conservative economists like Randall Lutter of the American Enterprise Institute argued this was not worth the cost. Using a bizarre analysis—based on estimates of how much parents were willing to pay out-of-pocket for drugs to remove lead—Lutter valued a child's intelligence at only $1,100 per IQ point. Arguing for looser lead standards, Lutter concluded that authorities should "reconsider the need for environmental standards that protect children more than their parents think is appropriate." Since 2000, no progress on lowering allowable lead limits has occurred, and in early 2007, Lutter was appointed to lead policy adviser at the FDA.

There has been a lively debate on law and economics as applied to the China Lead Doll Syndrome among my law school faculty colleagues. Maybe someone will want to comment on Randall Lutter's calculations cited above on the tradeoff between $ and IQ points. I wonder what wealthy parents are willing to invest to improve their little darlings' SAT scores when the children are applying for admission to elite colleges?

Monday, August 20, 2007

White House Acts to Limit Health Plan for Children

New York Times: By ROBERT PEAR

The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for New York, California and others to extend coverage to children in middle-income families. Administration officials outlined the new standards in a letter sent to state health officials on Friday evening, in the middle of a month-long Congressional recess. In interviews, they said the changes were aimed at returning the Children’s Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children and to make sure the program did not become a substitute for private health coverage. After learning of the new policy, some state officials said today that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children by imposing standards that could not be met. Ann Clemency Kohler, deputy commissioner of human services in New Jersey, said: “We are horrified at the new federal policy. It will cause havoc with our program and could jeopardize coverage for thousands of children"...

In his budget request in February, President Bush proposed strict limits on family income for the child health program. But in voting this month to renew the program for five years, neither house of Congress accepted that proposal for the program, whose legal authority for the child health program expires on Sept. 30. The policy in the Bush administration’s letter would continue indefinitely, although Democrats in Congress could try to pass legislation overriding it.