Obama should be wary of military advice on Afghanistan


In the coming days President Obama will answer this critical question: what is the US strategy in Afghanistan? As he weights the options, burdened by eight years of strategic blunders, no shortage of advice is being offered by his national security team and the Washington chattering class. If you listen closely, you’ll recognize two familiar refrains: the military can win this war if only it is given the necessary resources, or, alternatively, the struggle for freedom in Afghanistan is not (or should not be) a predominately military struggle.

This debate, which closely parallels debates over Vietnam, appropriately arouses passions on both sides. What is not helpful are contentions that one position is more patriotic or “pro-military” than the other. Rubber-stamping General McChrystal’s request for more troops does not prove the President’s commitment to national defense any more than supplying unlimited

Canned goods, ammo, and conservative paranoia


The degeneration of public discourse seems to have accelerated since President Barack Obama ’91 defeated John McCain and Sarah Palin, and the present debate over health care reform has brought us to a new pinnacle of obscurantism and misinformation. Perhaps the greatest mistake committed by President Obama so far has been his underestimation of the extent to which the popular consciousness is moved by the mass media’s propagation of the inflammatory rhetoric of anti-government demogogues.

Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are the standard fare in many Americans’ homes, and while they themselves are merely media mouthpieces, they embrace a brand of conservatism that is being formulated by individuals who are so virulently opposed to Obama’s very existence that they will analogize his administration and policies to whatever abhorent ideology they find most likely to inspire fear and anger.

In short, the Republican Party has become a refuge for disaffected radicals whose most distinct political sentiment is rage. On National Public Radio to discuss his book, “The Death of Conservatism”, Sam Tannenhaus said that today’s conservatives have become a party of radical “revanchists” who are driven by a desire to attack Democrats and the Left, blaming them for the loss of their values. Ironically, just this past week the so-called “Godfather of Conservatism”, Irving Kristol, died at the age of 92. As a man who began his intellectual life as a self-avowed liberal and Marxist, only later to become a leader of conservative thought, Kristol brought rigorous analysis to his advocacy in favor of capitalism and the free market. His passing, like the death of William F. Buckley, Jr., is a sign that the core figures of the conservative movement’s success in the twentieth century are no longer present to carry it forward. But looking deeper than that, Kristol’s passing is in many ways foreboding for those who would hope to see an intellectual renaissance on the Right.

Looking back to the latter half of the twentieth century, the staunchest advocates of conservatism were strident defenders of capitalism as a counterpoint to the Soviet version of communism or European socialism. With the Reagan era, these advocates had their greatest vindication. Taxes fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, and a rising tide of prosperity carried America into the nineties. But the political landscape today is utterly different from that which faced conservative thinkers of the last era. Taxes have now been at historically low levels for more than two decades. Europeans and developing nations have all recognized the value of strong capital markets. America’s military may still be the dominant force in the world, but wars today are fought over cultural, not economic differences, and are waged through guerrilla insurgencies, not nuclear face-offs. And now the conservative advocates of a free market are left to scratch their heads by a series of investment bubbles, brought on by laissez-faire deregulation, that have nearly dealt capitalism a fatal blow and forced the largest entities in the private markets to rush to national governments around the world for public assistance.

It is perhaps the unfamiliarity of the present political landscape which leads some arch-conservatives to conclude that President Obama represents the overthrow of our federal government by a Marxist conspiracy of left-wingers. In a recent article titled “The Left Still Doesn’t Get It” on the conservative website “American Thinker”, Geoffrey P. Hunt argued that the current campaign for health reform is nothing but a massive hand-out designed by “lefties” to benefit a “permanently aggreived, take but never pay class who pay no taxes, convinced they are victims of racist and capitalist exploitation.” He portrays the “regular American” as someone who is frustrated with the expansion of the national government and who will be moved to action to fight socialist government and defend capitalism by the continued affront to traditional values. It is an argument that presumes that everything that occurs in our national government is corrupting a utopian vision of America, and it is a method of discourse that has become typical in both print and mass media.

The proliferation of the presumption that everything the President says is a lie will almost certainly result in confusion and suspicion in the general population with regard to the entire federal government, but ironically this is exactly the reason that the unspoken compact that once held together Wall Street and Main Street is irrevocably broken. As long as the central architecture of capitalism depends on the federal government for its vital liquidity, the Democrats that control Congress and the White House will also be acting as the custodians of American capitalism. And because the Democrats are planning to rebuild, not deconstruct, capitalism, the political center endorses their general program. This puts Democrats in the awkward position of representing both the center-right and the far left, all the while trying to man the levers of the national economy through dire economic straits.

Given the nihilism and erstwhile utopianism of the far right, it seems unlikely that Democrats have much to fear. As distasteful as expansionary economic reform is to conservative firebrands, the opportunity to achieve both social justice and pragmatic, far-sighted reforms should not be squandered just because of a vocal class of hecklers. And while the tea-party staging revanchist radical Republicans are stocking up on canned goods and ammo, waiting for the second rising of the states against federal oppression, the rest of us will be getting on with the important business of figuring out how to best make use of the national government for the betterment of all Americans.

Cambridge, USA: The Shocking Return


After a year spent earning an LL.M. at the University of Cambridge, during which she wrote our series “Cambridge2Cambridge”, JESSICA CORSI has returned Stateside – and was shocked by the culture she found awaiting her.

My first week back in the US, I stumbled upon what at first struck me as an unbelievable scene in Central Square. I had been living abroad for the past 15 months, and I had returned to the US and to Cambridge, Mass. only to finish my J.D. I was trying to make the best of being back, and yet here I was, standing on Mass Ave, watching three police officers arrest an African American homeless man who was screaming at the top of his lungs. The police officers soon multiplied from three to seven, with several police cars flanking them. Was this actually happening my first week back? I mean-really? Did someone phone ahead and request that I be immediately confronted with all of the worst aspects of the US? I was reminded of when I had moved back from Mexico City in 2003, and had landed in a snowstorm and to CNN playing a looped tape of white police officers beating a black man in L.A. Welcome back.

That day in late August in Central Square, I was walking down the street eating a muffin. If I was going to be here, I was going to eat all of my favorite American-esque or American only foods, and the muffin is an American specialty, as is eating while walking down the street (see also eating while driving.) So here I am, walking, pleasing chocolate muffin in hand, and my baked goods revelry is interrupted by yelling somewhere immediately in front and to the left of me. Up ahead on the sidewalk there is a space with two benches facing each other. An African-American man who appears to be homeless-he is surrounded by many bags of the kind that homeless people carry their belongings in-is sitting and watching a scene. I look where he is looking: there is another African-American man, and he is yelling what sounds to me like nonsense; I can’t pick out anything that he’s saying. A white police officer is speaking to him, seemingly calling him by his name. The police officer is saying, “[Name], don’t make me do this; come on [name], you don’t want to make me do this.” Right; so; what am I witnessing here exactly? It sounds like a bully provoking a fight; an abusive partner about to throw a punch but before he does he wants to verbally establish that it was the other person’s fault. I stop walking and stand to watch. I feel incredibly awkward; I haven’t witnessed a scene like this in a very long time. Several times in the past I’ve interrupted these types of arrests, either against homeless people or against political protesters, and its all flashing back in my head. I figure that I should stand there and make sure the police don’t do anything funny. Not many other people are around.

Then, very quickly, the police officer that was calling the man by name takes him by the arm, bends the man’s arm behind his back, and pushes him over the hood of the police car. He takes both of the man’s hands and slaps handcuffs on him. The other two police officers that are there stand very closely behind the arresting officer but don’t move. One of them is white, one of them is not. For a minute or two, the scene is completely frozen; the police officers standing; the homeless man handcuffed and laying on the car, screaming.

Did I really just see that? Has it taken less than a week back in the US to see a white police officer push an African American homeless man onto a police car and handcuff him? This was my first day back in Cambridge; I had yet to sleep one night in my new apartment. Really?? This is really my first day back? It sounds like a bad movie. I stayed and watched for a while; they had sat the man down and nothing was happening. Other people had come out of their storefronts to watch. Satisfied that nothing was happening, I walked on. Ten minutes later I walked back past the same spot. Another police car had come; now there were seven police officers. I counted because I wanted to know how many police officers it takes at 11 a.m. on a Monday morning at the end of August to handcuff a homeless man in Cambridge, Mass. It took more than I would have expected.

Maybe I should have anticipated seeing this type of thing upon my return. Perhaps because I’m looking for it, or trying to categorize it, I feel like I have the most stereotypical and quintessential elements of a place thrust in front of me, wherever I go. I can never remember or anticipate all of it, though. I was expecting the Nantucket Reds in the Square, and the boat shoes with them and with the perpetual khaki shorts, but I had forgotten about how grown men in the U.S. wear baseball hats at all times, and that in Harvard Square they wear them with shirts, Nantucket Reds, and boat shoes all at once. I’d forgotten that student in the U.S. like to wear their gym clothes in public, all day long. I can’t tell how old anyone is or what they do as I walk through Harvard Yard; they’re all in t-shirts and gym shorts and so to me they all look like they just got out of bed. I’d forgotten the eccentricity of Harvard Square-why is there a guy there holding a “Free Africa!” sign. Free Africa? What does that mean? Why has he been there for three hours now? I’m sure he has some deeper purpose. But I can’t tell what that is just by seeing him hold that sign as he stands by the magazine stand.

But I think that what I had truly forgotten about was the jarring juxtaposition of it all. In Harvard Square, people are playing chess in front of Au Bon Pain, a romantic feature of where we live and fitting for such an intellectual center. But, you can’t walk past them without encountering a homeless person selling a “Street Sense” newspaper. I went to meet someone at the COOP, and it all came flooding back that this doorway is where homeless people that live in Harvard Square sleep at night. The contrast is striking: the privilege and charm of Harvard alongside abject poverty and the American nightmare of homelessness. Central Square was pretty quiet that first Monday; it was sunny and the largest crowd in sight was in front of the Starbucks. But there, in the sleepiness of late Monday morning in late summer, I witnessed the arrest of a homeless man who, from the sounds he emitted, seemed to be mentally unwell. This was much more American to me than the fact that I could now get my French fries (not chips; not frites; French fries) with BBQ sauce at the drive through from Wendy’s. I had forgotten the extremes of American daily life.

And with this shocking return, I was back in Cambridge, Mass., USA. Let the semester begin.

Health care debate demands more analytical rigor


Too often, as is the case in the recent debate over health care, people involved in the rhetoric of political argument overlook the value of analytical thinking. In our arguments, we neglect to remember that not every Democrat is a communist, and we fail to concede that not very many Republicans are highly paid insurance executives and/or Satanists. (Yes, there is a difference.) Americans need to ask themselves what they really want when it comes to healthcare, and unless it’s another 20 years of partisan bickering, limited access, and soaring government deficits, they need to shut up and listen. If we choose to rationally analyze costs and benefits or causes and effects, then we have a reasonable chance to design a more efficient, responsive and accessible health care system. Otherwise, we are stuck with more of the same.

I freely admit that, like most Senators and Representatives who will actually vote on the bill, haven’t read the 1017 page document that now rests before Congress. But having read the CBO cost projection analysis and the CRS bill summary, I have a few thoughts on the principles that should guide Republicans and Democrats alike as they seek to draft a workable plan.

Some form of universal coverage, if not a moral imperative, is at least a practical necessity. There’s simply no way around it – in almost all cases, individuals who can not afford health coverage will receive treatment in some form. In addition, costs associated with the lost productivity of unhealthy workers are a significant invisible drain on society at large. Instead of focusing on excluding those who are unable to pay from the system, we should instead concern ourselves with identifying the most cost-effective means for treating these individuals – because the emergency room is not the answer.

Employer sponsored healthcare sucks. It sucks because coverage is selected by an employer, whose primary concern is not quality of care, but the bottom line. There is no competition in the current system because in almost all cases, end users have no control over the final choice of provider. Just because a market is private, does not make it free. Individuals should purchase the coverage that is best for them – on an open market, free from compulsion. Unfortunately, current tax law unfairly subsidizes employer healthcare benefits, artificially raising the relative cost of privately purchased alternatives. Addressing this issue would go much further toward sparking competition than any ‘public option’ plan.

Keep a watchful eye on program costs and societal benefits. The guiding principle of whatever health care system emerges can not be that ‘every human life is priceless, and any cost is justified in saving it.’ While America may be the wealthiest nation on the planet, it will not continue to be wealthy for much longer if we adopt a generous healthcare system that does not attempt to match costs and benefits. So called ‘Death Panels,’ while politically unpopular, are a good start. (After all, doesn’t it make sense to spend more money treating a young mother of two than a washed up heroin addict?) But even without an expensive new healthcare system, America has $11.8 trillion dollars in debt and $59 trillion in unfunded liabilities to social security, Medicare and other government programs. This trend cannot continue.

Incentivize healthy behaviors. Luckily, over 70% of all health care costs are directly attributable to human behavior – behavior like smoking, over-eating or lack of exercise. If we can encourage individuals to kick the habit and go for a jog instead (by lowering premiums for individuals who engage in healthy behaviors) we can reduce overall costs. Unfortunately, such behavioral incentives are expressly forbidden in the new bill, and neither party is pushing to include them.

Insurance is not a consumption scheme. Insurance exists purely to distribute risk. It can never lower the cost of health care – on average, all participants must pay in at least as much as they take out. Health insurance makes sense for high risk, variable cost procedures like brain surgery, but not for predictable, set cost expenditures like checkups, vaccinations, or pregnancies. When no risk is involved, insurance is kind of like a dinner party. Several friends go out to dinner, splitting the bill afterwards. Knowing this, each might go ahead and order a second (or third) cocktail, knowing that in the end they’re only paying a fraction of the price. With a small group of friends, maybe that’s just how the good times roll. But to quote economist Russ Roberts of Geroge Mason University, “Never split the bill with a bunch (a few hundred million, lets say) of strangers. That’s how you get the buffet from hell.”

Michael Lumley is a 1L.

Highlights from the hilarious “birther” case


A fringe political movement known as the “birthers” continue to claim President Barack Obama ’91 was ineligible for the presidency because he was actually born outside the U.S. Last week, a federal judge dismissed the complaint of a soldier who argued for conscientious objection to service in Iraq due to her opinion of Obama’s fitness for the presidency. The court threatened sanctions for Orly Taitz, counsel for the strident soldier – and in a 14-page decision, waxed livid about the frivolousness of the case. Here are some highlights from Rhodes v. Macdonald, by Judge Clay D. Land of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia:

* “Plaintiff…has made no reliable factual allegations to support her unsubstantiated, conclusory allegations and conjecture that President Obama is ineligible to serve as President … Instead, she uses her Complaint as a platform for spouting political rhetoric, such as her claims that the President is ‘an illegal usurper, an unlawful pretender, [and] an unqualified imposter.’…She continues with bare, conclusory allegations that the President is ‘an alien, possibly even an unnaturalized or even an unadmitted illegal alien . . . without so much as lawful residency.'”

* “Then, implying that the President is either a wandering nomad or a prolific identity fraud crook, she alleges that the President ‘might have used as many as 149 addresses and 39 social security numbers prior to assuming the office of President.’ …Acknowledging the existence of a document that shows the President was born in Hawaii, Plaintiff alleges that the document “cannot be verified as genuine, and should be presumed fraudulent.'”

* “In further support of her claim, Plaintiff relies upon ‘the general opinion in the rest of the world’ that ‘Barack Hussein Obama has, in essence, slipped through the guardrails to become President.’… Moreover, as though the ‘general opinion in the rest of the world’ were not enough, Plaintiff alleges… that according to an ‘AOL poll 85% of Americans believe that Obama was not vetted, needs to be vetted and his vital records need to be produced.'”

* “Finally, in a remarkable shifting of the traditional legal burden of proof, Plaintiff unashamedly alleges that Defendant has the burden to prove his “natural born” status… Thus, Plaintiff’s counsel, who champions herself as a defender of liberty and freedom, seeks to use the power of the judiciary to compel a citizen, albeit the President…to ‘prove his innocence’ to ‘charges’ …based upon conjecture and speculation. Any middle school civics student would …recognize the irony of abandoning fundamental principles upon which our Country was founded in order to purportedly ‘protect and preserve’ [them].”

* “To the extent that it alleges any ‘facts,’ the Complaint does not connect those facts to any actual violation of Plaintiff’s individual constitutional rights. Unlike in Alice in Wonderland, simply saying something is so does not make it so…Her claims are based on sheer conjecture and speculation. She alleges no factual basis for her ‘hunch’ or ‘feeling’ or subjective belief that the President was not born in the [U.S.] Moreover, she cites no legal authority supporting her bold contention that the alleged ‘cloud’ over the resident’s birthplace amounts to a violation of her individual constitutional rights.”

* “Capt. Rhodes does not seek a discharge from the Army… She has not previously made any official complaints regarding any orders or assignments that she has received, including orders that have been issued since President Obama became Commander in Chief. But she does not want to go to Iraq (or to any other destination where she may be in harm’s way, for that matter). Her ‘conscientious objections’ to serving under the current Commander in Chief apparently can be accommodated as long as she is permitted to remain on American soil.”

Supreme Court analysis: in free speech and campaign finance debate, is precedent passe?


Former Dean Kagan made her debut before the Court on Wednesday

With Justices Anthony Kennedy ’61, Antonin Scalia ’60 and Clarence Thomas having explicitly urged reversal of two key campaign finance reform cases in previous opinions, all eyes were on Chief Justice John Roberts ’79 and Justice Alito at the re-argument of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

This critically important case pits the First Amendment rights of unions and corporations against over a century of campaign finance reforms going back to the 1907 Tillman Act. In granting re-argument of the case, which was initially before the Court last term, the parties were instructed to argue whether two precedents are ripe for reconsideration: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990) and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, 540 U.S. 93 (2003). 

In the 1990 Austin decision – which Justice Scalia referred to in his sardonic dissent as an “Orwellian” limitation on corporate speech – the Court upheld Michigan’s ban on independent corporate expenditures supporting or opposing candidates. And just six years ago in McConnell, a majority of the high court – including Justices Stephen Breyer ’64, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens – reaffirmed the constitutionality of corporate campaign contribution limitations over the dissent of Justices Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas. 

In the re-argument of Citizens United, the justices generally filled their roles predictably: Justices Kennedy and Scalia offered no solace to fans of campaign finance reform; Justice Thomas (who has not spoken during oral argument since February 22, 2009) once again demonstrated his commitment not to contribute to the discussion and gave no indication of having changed his mind on corporate speech; in her first argument since repeating ad nauseam that she is committed to constitutional fidelity before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice Sonia Sotomayor indicated her continued commitment to stare decisis; and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Stevens seemed dedicated to their previous decisions upholding the constitutionality of Congress’s authority to regulate corporate electioneering. 

With the case apparently theirs to decide, the Chief Justice and Justice Alito relentlessly challenged advocates for existing precedent and legislation. Chief Justice Roberts was particularly keen to challenge the status quo, peppering Solicitor General and former Harvard Law dean Elena Kagan ’86 with pointed questions. Kagan, in her first case before the high court as Solicitor General, presented the FEC’s position in the case. The Chief Justice dominated Kagan’s time before the Court, rebuking her argument at each turn. At one point, Chief Justice Roberts criticized the FEC’s position favoring limitations on corporate electioneering as being “paternalistic” and reminiscent of “Big Brother.”

The Chief Justice was no less active during the argument of former Solicitor General Seth P. Waxman, representing Senators John McCain, Russ Feingold ’79 and other sponsors of the congressional acts to reform campaign finance. Though not as vociferous as his chief, Justice Alito’s questioning of the attorneys also appeared to reveal hostility towards Congress’s role in campaign finance regulation and related Supreme Court precedent. 

Observers are not unwarranted in noting that this argument was similar to that presented late last term in NAMUDNO v. Holder, 557 U.S. ___ (2009). There, the Court considered the constitutionality a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights advocates felt a pit in their stomachs after oral arguments, where a majority of the Court subjected them to surprisingly antagonistic questioning. Despite fears for the worst, however, an eight-justice majority ruled narrowly to avert determining the constitutionality of the provision at issue. 

Here, too, the justices seemed to have their minds made up at oral argument, and the Court seemed prepared for conservative, ends-justified judicial activism. 

Standing in front of the Supreme Court after the fact, Senator McCain remarked that he was “disappointed in the extreme na’veté of some of the justices” about the influence of corporate money on politics and policy. A joint statement by Senators McCain and Feingold put a finer point on their criticisms: “During his confirmation hearing, Chief Justice Roberts, whom we both voted for, promised to respect precedent. If he casts the deciding vote to overrule Austin and McConnell, it would completely contradict that promise, and could have serious consequences for our democracy.” 

Chris Cassidy is the Assistant Director of Communications at the American Constitution Society in Washington, D.C. All opinions presented above are in no way reflective of ACS and are solely attributable to Cassidy, who is online at twitter.com/CitizenCassidy.


How long will California burn?


Anthony Citrano Briggs Terrrace Station Fire Flick


Two weeks ago, as the Station Fire threatened to engulf the town of La Canada Flintridge in an inferno, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger went on television to warn Californians and the rest of the nation of the dire circumstances affecting the state. “Fires are burning from the Northern border of California all the way south and from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra Nevada. We have fires everywhere.” From the Governor’s words and the consistently shocking news of wildfires and fiscal turmoil in the Golden State, it would seem that there was a sort of economic and ecological Armageddon occurring on the west coast.



As a native of South Carolina moving to Los Angeles for the summer, I was intrigued by these quintessentially Californian problems that to natives of the state seem as natural as El Nino or the Santa Ana winds. I was not sure what to expect, but I knew that living in L.A. I would see a side of California that had not been shown on television or in movies, and that when I saw this unvarnished reality the confusing messages I had received would begin making sense.



When I arrived, I was not entirely impressed by the vast urban jungle of L.A., which is rather similar to the sprawling nightmare that Atlanta has become in recent years. Sure there are beaches and mountains, but the essential features of the urban landscape are surprisingly common: central cores with tall buildings, seemingly endless stretches of multi-story apartments and commercial structures, and impossibly wide freeways arching from one spaghetti junction to the next. Looking out from the sparkling glass towers of California Plaza, where the law firm where I worked was located, I could see through the haze to the mountainous horizon, with the entire expanse covered by a speckled patchwork of familiar urbanity through which busses and cars crawled on their daily commutes.



Over the course of a few months, though, I began seeing the signs I had expected to discover, indications of a harsh reality lurking beneath the mundane surface. In Griffith Park, hiking close to the observatory, I saw the telltale signs of the fires that burned the hills a few years ago. Twisted carbonaceous branches were interspersed among the sparse vegetation that was slowly returning to cover the areas that had been recently scorched. Grasses, shrubs, and undergrowth crowded around charred tree trunks. Here was a sign of the devastation I had heard of, but it wasn’t outside the city, where I had imagined to find a flame-torn battlefield marking a brutal siege. It was right in the midst of fish taco stands and the Hollywood Bowl. I found it bizarre that the very core of a city could be so combustible.



The longer I stayed in L.A. the more impressive the dryness became. In South Carolina we may have a period of weeks with little to no rain, but that is only because we are in the midst of a severe drought. Even in a relatively dry month we will see some occasional thunderstorms and tropical rains. But in Southern California, the lack of rain is so severe that no life can survive without the aid of irrigation. The demand for water is great enough that in the dry season it may be cheaper to let the plants die and replant later rather than providing water all year round. In the course of three months, I saw rain no more than three times.



Of course, during the first half of the summer the hottest topic in the news was the impending bankruptcy of the state government. Day after day, one politician after another would accuse some opposing faction of obstructionism, and all the time the Governor was heard threatening to dismantle social welfare programs to make up the shortfall. Over time his woeful rhetoric began to inspire the image of a fiercely armed Governator standing over a prone state government, Bowie knife in hand, ready to chop off a charitable hand to save the poisoned body. Eventually the stalemate collapsed, yielding to reason and necessity, but for a time it seemed that the legislature would herd the entire state off a cliff like lemmings into the Pacific.



And so as I listened to the Governor talk about the state’s wildfires it took me back to the manmade crisis which continues to loom over the state’s financial future. If we can say that tax dollars are the lifeblood of a state government, the water for its thirsty crop of public programs, then the train wreck that is the California government begins to make a little more sense given the constraints that have been placed on the budgetary process. For let’s not forget that this is the state that gave the nation Ronald Reagan, the tax-slashing Republican par excellence, and a state whose legislature has been tied up by one referendum after another. When we look at Proposition 13 and other tax-constraining measures as a desiccating force that limits the amount of tax money that can be put in the state budget, along with the severe economic challenges that are limiting the amount of revenue that precipitates out of the state’s income stream, we can see that California is facing a profound fiscal dryness. And in this bristling tinder box, the spark of the raging wildfires threatens to reignite the debate over how the state will pay for essential services.



It should come as no surprise when after a summer of high temperatures and no rain there are fires that cannot be stopped before they spread and consume huge tracts of land. Living in L.A. brought home to me the immediacy of these problems. A desperate situation should not be ignored and action delayed until there is a massive conflagration bearing down on one’s home.



We need to look at the broken state budgetary process in California and in other states as an indication that we are creating the conditions that will spawn a social and economic disaster. With the economy looking to remain weak for several years, there is more need now than ever for a strong education system that can guide students and displaced workers into careers in growth sectors. And this is a lesson for the whole nation, not just California, because just like California has its fire season, hurricane season is just beginning back East.



Matthew Hutchins is a 3L?and an Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Record


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Cras sed ante. Phasellus in massa. Curabitur dolor eros, gravida et, hendrerit ac, cursus non, massa. Aliquam lorem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Cras eu mauris. Quisque lacus. Donec ipsum. Nullam vitae sem at nunc pharetra ultricies. Vivamus elit eros, ullamcorper a, adipiscing sit amet, porttitor ut, nibh. Maecenas adipiscing mollis massa. Nunc ut dui eget nulla venenatis aliquet. Sed luctus posuere justo. Cras vehicula varius turpis. Vivamus eros metus, tristique sit amet, molestie dignissim, malesuada et, urna.

Cras sed ante. Phasellus in massa. Curabitur dolor eros, gravida et, hendrerit ac, cursus non, massa. Aliquam lorem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Cras eu mauris. Quisque lacus. Donec ipsum. Nullam vitae sem at nunc pharetra ultricies. Vivamus elit eros, ullamcorper a, adipiscing sit amet, porttitor ut, nibh. Maecenas adipiscing mollis massa. Nunc ut dui eget nulla venenatis aliquet. Sed luctus posuere justo. Cras vehicula varius turpis. Vivamus eros metus, tristique sit amet, molestie dignissim, malesuada et, urna.

Cras sed ante. Phasellus in massa. Curabitur dolor eros, gravida et, hendrerit ac, cursus non, massa. Aliquam lorem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Cras eu mauris. Quisque lacus. Donec ipsum. Nullam vitae sem at nunc pharetra ultricies. Vivamus elit eros, ullamcorper a, adipiscing sit amet, porttitor ut, nibh. Maecenas adipiscing mollis massa. Nunc ut dui eget nulla venenatis aliquet. Sed luctus posuere justo. Cras vehicula varius turpis. Vivamus eros metus, tristique sit amet, molestie dignissim, malesuada et, urna.

Donec gravida posuere


kites 3

Donec gravida posuere arcu. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus imperdiet. Vestibulum at metus. Integer euismod. Nullam placerat rhoncus sapien. Ut euismod. Praesent libero. Morbi pellentesque libero sit amet ante. Maecenas tellus. Maecenas erat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Donec gravida posuere arcu. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus imperdiet. Vestibulum at metus. Integer euismod. Nullam placerat rhoncus sapien. Ut euismod. Praesent libero. Morbi pellentesque libero sit amet ante. Maecenas tellus. Maecenas erat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Donec gravida posuere arcu. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus imperdiet. Vestibulum at metus. Integer euismod. Nullam placerat rhoncus sapien. Ut euismod. Praesent libero. Morbi pellentesque libero sit amet ante. Maecenas tellus. Maecenas erat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Donec gravida posuere arcu. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus imperdiet. Vestibulum at metus. Integer euismod. Nullam placerat rhoncus sapien. Ut euismod. Praesent libero. Morbi pellentesque libero sit amet ante. Maecenas tellus. Maecenas erat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Donec gravida posuere arcu. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus imperdiet. Vestibulum at metus. Integer euismod. Nullam placerat rhoncus sapien. Ut euismod. Praesent libero. Morbi pellentesque libero sit amet ante. Maecenas tellus. Maecenas erat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Donec gravida posuere arcu. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus imperdiet. Vestibulum at metus. Integer euismod. Nullam placerat rhoncus sapien. Ut euismod. Praesent libero. Morbi pellentesque libero sit amet ante. Maecenas tellus. Maecenas erat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Donec gravida posuere arcu. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus imperdiet. Vestibulum at metus. Integer euismod. Nullam placerat rhoncus sapien. Ut euismod. Praesent libero. Morbi pellentesque libero sit amet ante. Maecenas tellus. Maecenas erat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Donec gravida posuere arcu. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus imperdiet. Vestibulum at metus. Integer euismod. Nullam placerat rhoncus sapien. Ut euismod. Praesent libero. Morbi pellentesque libero sit amet ante. Maecenas tellus. Maecenas erat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Donec gravida posuere arcu. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus imperdiet. Vestibulum at metus. Integer euismod. Nullam placerat rhoncus sapien. Ut euismod. Praesent libero. Morbi pellentesque libero sit amet ante. Maecenas tellus. Maecenas erat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Cambridge2Cambridge: In praise of the Socratic Method


Jacques-Louis David’s “The Death of Socrates”


Once again the Record catches up with JESSICA CORSI, our correspondent from the other Cambridge, who is pursuing her LL.M. at that vaunted U.K. institution. This week, Jessica bemoans the lack of the Socratic Method across the Pond and actually (gasp!)?longs to be called out in class.



I can say with all honesty that I miss the Socratic method. While it is the stuff of legends and pre-1L panic attacks in the U.S., it is not much heard of in the UK or in continental Europe. The style here is more autocratic lecture, with occasional suggestions that questions will be taken for 10 minutes at the end. This may sound attractive, and it certainly allows one to relax and be lazy in class, but let me tell you why it strikes fear into my heart.



The Socratic method sounds benevolent: a form of inquiry designed to help you learn and to reveal new lines of reasoning you did not know you had in you; a system to elucidate ideas and understandings; a way in which to tease out and challenge your underlying assumptions on the subject; a dialectic through which to train you to think critically about complicated issues. We all know why we hate it: we did not read for class; we do not feel comfortable talking out loud about this topic; we do not feel comfortable talking out loud in front of the class period; we did not wash out hair today so if we get called on everyone will notice our oily split ends; the professor is obviously cruel and is going to be deliberately horrible in their questioning because that’s what she does; the professor is picking on you to embarrass you because your hair looks like crap and that is so not fair.



The LL.M. at Cambridge certainly manages to sidestep all of the potential downsides of the Socratic method. On the flipside, without it you miss the daily engagements with these analytical skills and everything that you might learn from them. Undergraduates at Cambridge go at least weekly for what is called a “supervision”: a student-professor session that is either one on one, with a pair of students, or in a very small group, where after completing readings and handing in essays on the topic at hand, students enter into discussions led by the professor and they are challenged to defend their points, receiving feedback in the process.



We LL.M.s receive nothing of the sort. In contrast, while lectures are an optional part of the undergraduate course here, it seems this is almost all we do: we show up to lecture; if we are lucky the professor has prepared a handout which is circulated to the class; and then we sit and listen for two hours. Nary a person raises her hand; sometimes when a hand is raised the question is scuttled to the ten minute question period I mentioned earlier. No debate is engaged in. The only sound is the professor talking on and on; that is if you can even hear her. With no one willing to raise a hand, even something basic like “could you please speak up” can go unsaid.



LL.M.s here do not write essays either. We begin in October. Yet the very first date that we can hand anything in for a grade is May 1, if we are writing a thesis or a long essay. Otherwise, we take exams in late May or early June, and call it a day. That’s it-8 hours a week in class spent listening; 3 hours in a handful of exams; and you have earned your masters in law. Behind the scenes you read all the time, deciding for yourself what to choose from the assigned reading lists, as very little is marked as required reading; and as you read you are trying to figure it all out. I suppose the idea is that having a previous law degree, you would know how to make sense of it all; you would have in your head the professor and the classmates and you could orchestrate the great debate on your own.



Many LL.M.s are not taking new courses, but the same courses they took in their previous law degree, because they believe that the masters is an extension and deepening of their bachelor’s in law. Some are taking the same courses at the same school, having just completed their bachelor in law here at Cambridge. It might make sense in that specific case to let people work independently, because it would allow them to use their base knowledge to learn deeper facets of these subjects as they saw fit.



But what about me-one of four students here who do not actually have a law degree yet. Can I recreate those daily debates in my head? Have I found those fifteen other people that might have been questioned in class to explain to me their impressions of the case and their thoughts on the legal issues under discussion? What do you think?



No, of course I have not! And this is why I miss the Socratic method: all of these months, all of these cases and treaties, all of these law review articles, and no one to challenge me or help me see why I am right, wrong, or somewhere in-between. I do not mind being an independent worker or an independent learner-I love it, and that is one of the reasons I love being here-but I expect that in an academic environment someone will guide me along, whether that be my professors or peers of both. That is one of the reasons why academic communities exist-to support each other in learning so that we can reach conclusions and achievements we could not have reached on our own.



Don’t get me wrong; there are many things that I do not miss about being questioned daily, like having to say I didn’t read today so could you please ask someone else, or saying something ridiculous in front of 80 other people. But I am in fact missing the Socratic method, because I think it does what it is meant to do: help us learn both the subject matter and a new way of seeing things. I would settle for any alternative: seminar discussions, volunteer conversations in class, graded essays, because I would like to see if my year here has added anything to what is inside my head. Given that we’re into April, my related thought is that I’d like to know if the process of improving my legal knowledge and understandings is underway before I take my exams. Alas, I shall have to wait and see with the rest of my class. Rest assured that all of the fingers that could be crossed and still leave my hands free enough to write this article have been welded into place.


Amos’s Sermon: Appreciating the Triumph of Truth

BERLIN, October 29, 2005 – It all started with a lie. The annexation of Austria. The invasion of Poland. The foray into Russia. The genocide of six million Jews and elimination of six million others, and the abuse of millions more who survived long enough for the Allies’ liberation of the concentration camps and the countries occupied by Adolph Hitler’s Germany sixty years ago this year. This is the city from which the villains of the Third Reich ruled. Fifty million people died in World War II, and it all happened because of the lie that is racism.

Walking the streets of this city reunified in 1990 after the Cold War intersession, I was constantly reminded of the destruction and despair characterizing the 12-year reign of terror under-girded by the lie. Informed by “The Last Days of World War II,” a powerful History Channel documentary series airing this year, I imagined what life must have been like for those Berliners on whom Hitler turned after his demise was assured: for instance, the ragtag regiment of old men and boys ill-fatedly enlisted to defend this city that was supposed to have served as the governmental seat of a thousand-year Reich. Misinformation and historical inaccuracies were the currency of the war-waging era, and also of the communist period that kept millions of East Germans disconsolate for 45 years after the war.

Lies can be so costly.

For one thing, Hitler claimed that his volk were Aryans. They more accurately were Slavs. Not that it mattered, though; if he had known better, Der Führer simply would have asserted the superiority of the Slavic people – the way bigoted leaders in other parts of the world have done since World War II in other parts of the world. Fabrications and ethnocentrism are equal-opportunity visitors among cultures.

As disciplined liars, the Nazis corrupted the attributes of science and industry to build an edifice of evil the world had never known. Tens of millions of ordinary people facilitated the terror. And, although brave and brilliant German dissidents like Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and the Rev. Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer fought the regime, even orchestrating an assassination attempt on Hitler himself, they had little popular reinforcement. They were captured and executed.

The demise of fact

Before shuttling to Berlin on the cheap for three days during our annual fly-out week, I attended a lecture across campus titled “The Demise of Fact in Political Discussion.” Delivered on Tuesday by the highly regarded communications expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, it presented her argument that today’s political partisans are challenging what once would have been considered fact, molding their readings of fact to political goals and preventing real deliberation from taking place. Critiquing both major American parties, she convincingly called out the new tendency to disrespect facts in favor of manipulating evidence such that we “alter the deliberative domain” in a way favorable to our own policy positions.

Jamieson lamented adherence to facts “as convenient to ideology” and questioned the media’s “split-the-difference relativism,” which lazily reports as though certain facts are disputed simply because one side says that they are. The result is a political process flawed because adversaries are “anchored in their own ideological enclave, regardless of the facts.” (For an example of how this problem can play out, compare HLS Lambda President Jeffrey Paik’s denials (A Response to Amos’s Sermon, October 20, 2005) to the facts presented in my last sermon (On Carter G. Woodson and the Lambda-sponsored ‘sit-in,’ October 13, 2005). For the paradigm for intentional omission as the manufactory of self-exculpating evidence in the black-history context, see Dred Scott.)

While de-Nazified Germany and the world have risen above the treachery of Hitler, a new generation of Germans contends with the baggage of their forebears, whose actuality presents disputes over ill-gotten gains and reparations for what was stolen in the first place. As historian Brian Ladd emphasizes in his 1997 book, “The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape,” although the contemporary crisis of historical confidence is not unique to Germans, they may lead the world in agonized self-examination. The upside is that virtually everybody now agrees on the most elemental historical facts.

The costs of correcting

We can thank a number of dedicated journalists and historians for ensuring that the truth has come out. In many cases, it has taken them years to correct distorted records. Sometimes chroniclers of fact have found it necessary to confront and fight liars publicly. Exposing these most intransigent wretches rarely goes unpunished.

The cover of the current Emory Magazine features a triumphant Deborah Lipstadt, that Southern university’s Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, who in February released “History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving.” In this book, she recounts the landmark libel trial in the United Kingdom that resulted five years ago in her being cleared of charges brought by a famous Holocaust denier who claimed that she defamed him inasmuch as the Holocaust never occurred. The British legal system essentially required Professor Lipstadt, an unimpeachable authority on the Holocaust, to prove in court that the Holocaust happened. The trial was five years ago. She won.

A recent obituary in The Economist pays tribute to Simon Wiesenthal, a famed Nazi hunter who died on September 20 at the age of 96. The article began: “One of the stranger conversations in Simon Wiesenthal’s life occurred in September 1944. He was being taken by SS guards, in his faded striped uniform, away from the advancing Russians. Somewhere in the middle of Poland, he and an SS corporal scavenged together for potatoes. What, the corporal asked him mockingly, would he tell someone in America about the death camps? Mr. Wiesenthal said he would tell the truth. ‘They wouldn’t believe you,’ the corporal replied.” We know the rest of the story. Wiesenthal, a successful architect prior to the Holocaust who lost 89 family members in The Final Solution, eventually was released from the Mauthausen concentration camp, opened the Jewish Documentation Centre in Vienna, and helped to track down more than 1,100 Nazis. Since 1945, hundreds of Nazi escapees all over the world have been outted as fugitives, called to account for their actions, and punished. Wiesenthal’s concurrent pursuit was to remind the world about the dangers of Nazism and to warn on the lecture circuit and in books about motivating trends in far-right politics. Insisting that world leaders had a duty to combat racism, he faced constant threats. In 1982 neo-Nazis blew up his house. Yet Wiesenthal pressed on, because, according to The Economist, “his survival of the Holocaust gave him a duty to seek justice for the millions who died.”

On Monday, our own country paid tribute to Rosa Parks, the civil-rights pioneer who rejected white racism fifty years ago, December 1, when she refused to leave her seat for a white man on an Alabama bus. As E.R. Shipp of the New York Times wrote last week, black Americans had been arrested and killed for disobeying bus drivers. Inspired by Parks’s stand and directed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., blacks in Montgomery took the heat and fought the power, coordinating an impressive and sacrificial 381-day boycott that succeeded. Over the next thirteen years, the Civil Rights Movement forced America closer to fulfilling the promises it claimed on paper. The dark side of the story too often forgotten is that progress came at a significant cost. As the cradle of the movement, nearly ten of Montgomery’s black churches were firebombed the evening the court order forcing desegregation of the buses was announced. Once i
ntegrated, many buses were shot at terrorism-style. Within weeks of the integration, the Parks family had to leave Montgomery for good because of white people’s violent retaliation against them. The family would settle in Detroit, where Rosa Parks died at the age of 92, on October 24.

Respecting honesty

It was predictable that Lipstadt, Wiesenthal, and Parks would make bold enemies on their righteous missions to reconcile the human family. History reveals that liars hate the truth and the people who tell it. Recall that prophets tend to be murdered. Yet ordinary people, the backbones of mass social movements, often understand the challenge and appreciate the response.

Gazing at the Rosa Parks bus exhibit in the Detroit area’s Ford museum during chilly weather last week, 75-year-old Ruth Matthews, a black American, remembered the days when she could not sit at certain tables or in certain seats. She paused at the bus draped in black and purple bunting in Parks’s honor. “For once,” she told the New York Times, “somebody had the courage to stand up for the truth.” Marty Smith, who answers visitors’ questions as a guide in the Ebenezer Baptist Church, a King-district tourism site in Atlanta, said of the early civil rights activists, “In today’s time, you can’t find people who will stand up and do the right thing for the causes they stood up for.”

Bill Pretzer, a curator of political history at the Ford museum, revealed how student visitors today often are in disbelief that what happened on the bus could have occurred in America: “They say, ‘What do you mean can’t sit there? That’s impossible,'” he told a reporter. “Which is why we need to keep looking at this. There is a danger that if we don’t spark peoples’ imaginations as to what in fact happened, we risk it one day happening again.”

Amos Jones is a 3L from Lexington, Ky. Reach him at amosjonescomment@aol.com.

Firm Flexibility

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some OCI expertise with you, 2Ls. After a full year at a law firm, it’s about time that I speak with expertise on something.

Let’s call a spade a spade: OCI is chaotic. Each of you has the opportunity to interview with dozens of law firms. Among those firms, you’ll select one or two for your 2L summer. And spending a summer with a law firm leads, more often than not, to post-HLS employment. Facing a major career decision, you’re narrowing a lot of law firms down in a very short amount of time, too often on too little information.

Right? Maybe. But it needn’t be that way. At least, it wasn’t that way for me. So here’s a bit of free advice, for what it’s worth.

First, a quick recap of how I ended up where I am:

I came to law school sure that I’d graduate, move to the West Coast, and practice Intellectual Property law. Well, to be more specific, “Internet Law.” (It didn’t seem so ridiculous at the time. Honest.) But within a couple months, I lost interest in the subject, and started to broaden my pursuits.

Sending out forty-odd resumes, I landed a 1L summer spot at an international law firm based in Chicago, doing tax litigation. It was a great firm, with great people. Had I wanted to do tax litigation in Chicago, I would have ended up there. But I didn’t. So I didn’t.

My 2L year, I was sure I wanted to practice securities and antitrust law in Washington. So I interviewed with a good number of D.C. firms; got a callback with my number one pick; but didn’t get an offer. I went with my number two pick, one of the two or three “elite” Beltway firms. I had a fantastic time, got an offer, and planned to return after graduation.

But I wanted to clerk, so the following fall I sent out a handful of resumes. As luck would have it, the only judge I heard back from was the judge I wanted to clerk for most of all. As luck would further have it, I got the job. Per my judge’s request, I politely declined the firm’s offer.

The clerkship was a real joy. And it was in that clerkship that I found an area of law that sparked my interest: Energy Law.

Most D.C. Circuit clerks do their best to avoid FERC (i.e., Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) cases; they find them complicated and boring. But for whatever reason-probably my background in economics and my interest in Administrative Law, lousy course grade notwithstanding- I loved them.

So when it came time to think about firms, I knew what I wanted: A firm where I could practice Energy Law, and Appellate Law more generally. A firm that was smaller than my 1L and 2L summer firms, yet had a range of quality practice groups, and one that put a lot of responsibility on new associates. I looked around, asked around, and quickly found a firm I thought fit my criteria. I couldn’t have picked a better firm to suit me.

My point is not to advertise my firm to you. (You’re getting more than enough advertisement this month, and I’m not going to waste your time with a shameless promo for my employer.)

My point, rather, is what I think my experience exemplifies: the need for you to maintain your flexibility and open-mindedness as you meet with law firms and pick your 2L summer firm.

You may be dead-set on what kind of law you want to practice. (If so, I’d bet dollars to donuts that you’re an ex-engineer who wants to practice IP.) But unless you’re absolutely sure, then I can’t stress enough how important it is to avoid fixating yourself on a narrow practice.

My interests shifted from Intellectual Property to Securities to Antitrust to Energy. Had you told me at the beginning of my 2L year that I’d be doing what I’m doing today, I wouldn’t have believed it; in Fall 2002, Energy Law had never occurred to me. But by keeping my mind open, even as I worked through my 2L, 3L, and clerkship years, I managed to find a subject matter that (unexpectedly) fit me.

So take the subject or two that already interests you, and look for a firm that will let you work in those areas. But also look for a firm that will let you try other things. And during your summer, try a few different things.

Flexibility in figuring out what you want in a firm has an added benefit: It vastly reduces the pressure you’ll put on yourself in picking a firm. As I noted above, I don’t work today at either of the firms I summered at. And I’m not the only one. Go into OCI knowing that if you decide that your 2L firm isn’t the right fit, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to look around again.

Or, as in my case, even the firm that feels right may not be the firm you end up with after all. Trust me, things could be worse.

Best of luck this week.

Adam White ’04 is an associate at Baker Botts L.L.P. in Washington, D.C. and was editorial page editor of The Record. The views expressed in this essay should not be taken to represent the views of his employer.

Read this column and you will ace the MPRE

Okay, I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. I should have taken the MPRE in the fall, but I was lazy and saved it until the spring. On the plus side, had I taken it in the fall I would have had to go to downtown Hartford to find an open testing center. On the minus side, if I fail it now, I don’t get to take the bar exam. On the plus side, who wants to take the bar exam anyway? On the minus side, who wants to take the bar exam a year from now? On the plus side, maybe the world will end by then. On the minus side, uh, if the world ends, I’m in trouble.

Here’s what I don’t understand. In one breath, everyone says that the MPRE is nothing to worry about. But in the next breath, everyone has a study strategy. And in the third breath, everyone knows fourteen people who failed. And in the fourth breath, we stop talking about the MPRE because it’s a hella boring test and no one wants to spend more than eight seconds talking about it.

The friend whose book I’m using said that all I need to do is read his outline from the class, and that’s all I need to ace the test. The first person I told that to said no, that’s all wrong, I just need to read the mini review in the book and I’ll ace the test. The next person said no, ignore the outline and the mini review, just take the practice tests and I’ll ace the test. The next person said no, just use common sense and I’ll ace the test. The next person said I’m going to fail because I didn’t pay for Bar/Bri. Shut up, Bar/Bri representative. I don’t believe you anyway.

One of my professors last semester said we should be able to pass the MPRE with our eyes closed. I don’t even think I can find my #2 pencil with my eyes closed, so I don’t think I’m going to try that. But this whole thing seems a little ridiculous. If the test is so easy, why do we have to take it? And, even worse, why does everyone know eight people who failed? And, even worse, why is the book so hard to read? Oh, wait, I’m holding it upside down. There, that’s better.

I found a web site with some practice questions. I’m now going to make fun of them. Here’s one. “Attorney recently graduated from Bluff Law School and successfully passed the Bar Exam. Prior to going to Law School, Attorney practiced as a dentist for the past 15 years. As a result, most of Attorney’s contacts are in the dental field. At the last Dental Conference, Attorney approached his old cronies and said, ‘If you refer your patients to me who are in need of legal services, I will retain you as an expert witness in all of my dental malpractice cases.’ Is Attorney subject to discipline for making such an agreement with his old dental cronies?”

First of all, Bluff Law School? Could they do no better? I don’t know how high my expectations are for a lawyer’s ethical state if he went to a school called Bluff. And a dentist-turned-lawyer? This sounds like an idea for a sitcom, not a legal ethics practice question. In any case, there’s no need to even think about this one, because the mere use of the word “cronies” gives it away. Of course he should be subject to discipline. Otherwise his fellow dentists would have been called his “colleagues” instead. I mean, this is Beating the Standardized Test 101 here, folks.

Okay, next question. “Judge and her husband are interested in selling their home. They contacted Agent and Agent put Judge’s house up for sale. Last Sunday, Buyer’s agent took her client, Attorney, to several houses. The last house on the tour was Judge’s house. Attorney desired Judge’s house and made an offer the moment the tour ended. The offer was held open for one week. Meanwhile, on Monday, Attorney was assigned to Judge’s courtroom for trial. Is it proper for Judge to preside at this trial?”

They’re so freaking gender-neutral over in MPRE-land. “Judge and her husband.” Like there are really any female judges. I think Larry Summers would have something to say about this. In any case, I share this question only because of Answer Choice A, quite possibly the dumbest answer choice I’ve seen since “17” on the Math SAT II. 17? Right. Everyone knew it was 3 and a half. Everyone. Anyway, choice A: “A. No, because Attorney may have discovered Judge’s secrets while touring his house.”

What? Judge’s secrets? What kind of secrets do they even want us to imagine here? The pile of bribes she left on the kitchen counter? The tortured child locked in the bathroom? The denture paste? This is an obvious wrong choice. The real answer is “E. Client needs to find a new Attorney, because if all Attorney can afford is Judge’s house, then Attorney’s not doing so well, and must not be a very good lawyer.” I mean, what can Judge possibly be making here? A hundred, a hundred fifty… Attorney’s gotta be making more than that or Client needs to shop elsewhere. I mean, really, find a better lawyerOne more. “Attorney fails the MPRE. Judge finds out. Judge tells Client. Client fires Attorney. Attorney goes to dental school. Judge goes to get his teeth cleaned. Chaos ensues.” Okay, clearly I’m not taking this seriously enough. My fault. I should’ve taken the MPRE in the fall. Oh well. But on the plus side, at least I don’t go to Bluff Law School.

Jeremy Blachman is a 3L who hates writing about the MPRE three weeks after writing about the bar exam, but what’s he gonna do?

A love letter to Boston

WITH MY LAW-SCHOOL days fast escaping me, I find myself thinking more and more about how much I’m going to miss my HLS life. Of course I’ll miss friends, and I’ll miss the leisurely schedule of a student. I may even miss classes from time to time. (I’ve certainly been missing a lot of class working on my 3L paper.) But as I stop to think about what I’ll leave behind in a month, I find myself surprisingly moved by one imminent loss: Boston.

I love Boston. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere in the last three years Boston won my heart. While this message is surely of no value to my 3L peers, I hope that 2L and 1L readers might pause to consider precisely what a wonderful place surrounds their law school. Please consider the following my “love letter to Boston.”

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Boston, I’m grateful for all of your quirks. Your sights, your history, even your weather. As I end my time here, I realize that I love practically everything about you … save, of course, for pigeons and John Kerry.

Your neighborhoods. I have yet to tire of exploring them, although I spent not nearly enough time on your side of the river. But my spur-of-the-moment jaunts across the Charles have always served to reinvigorate. Pasta and pastry in the North End; a cup of coffee and a book at Beacon Hill. Vendor sausages and roasted nuts on the way down to Quincy Market. And, of course, the noisy pubs down by the water. I’ll miss it all.

Your weather. Of course, most of my classmates will scoff. Even I’ve cursed the wind and snow now and then. But it was hardly intolerable, and it was a warm reminder that it took hardy men and women to stake their claim in the New World here on the Massachusetts coast. The too-often gray skies made the sunny days all the more bright.

The history. I just couldn’t get enough of it. For such a small city and state, Massachusetts brims with such grand history. Of course I walked the Trail, went to Concord, Plymouth, and countless other sites. Icheered in the stands at Fenway. But for me my favorite moments were the occasional visits to the General Court. I’d walk up the steps to the House Chamber gallery and just watch. On busy days it was fine. But I liked the quiet days best; on those days I could sit and read (The Atlantic in Holmes’s Hub of the Universe – how cliché) and occasionally look up and see the reminders of history. And that ridiculous cod – at first it was so amusing to me, but as I came to learn Boston I came to realize that such a funny icon could hold such symbolic meaning to generations past.

And as the years pass on the city, I can’t help but feel a certain Boston melancholy. Year by year, you move a bit further from its past as a financial and political center, and a bit closer to a quiet future as another mid-sized city of past glories. “Like Philadelphia,” a friend told me, or Chicago. You will survive, though, and you will grow and shrink and change and thrive, and I can’t wait to visit you. After the Dig is done being dug.

I’ll never live in Boston again, surely. Career, family, and finances all count against it. But I’ll never forget my time here, and I’ll certainly decorate my life with quiet reminders of my fleeting days here. Thank you, Boston.

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2Ls and 1Ls: Laugh a little at my pre-graduation melodrama. But then do yourself a favor: go down to the bookstore and buy a copy of Thomas O’Connor’s The Hub: Boston Past and Present. Stick it in your backpack and take it with you this summer. Read it in July, when you’ve half-forgotten the place and exams are a distant memory. When you come back to Boston, come back to Boston. Hide out in the North End. Sit in the galleries at the General Court’s chambers. Drive out to Concord and see Emerson’s home. Picnic at Walden. Stand on the bridge at Lexington, close your eyes, and breathe history. And when you’re finished, keep traveling. Go south to Plymouth and the Cape, north to Gloucester and Manchester-by-the-Sea. I wish I’d done it sooner. I wish I could do it all once more.

Adam White is The Record’s editorial page editor. His column appears weekly.


Diplomatic inanity

AFTER WEEKS OF BOASTING the support of international leaders in his bid to unseat President Bush, John Kerry finally received a foreign endorsement he didn’t want. Kerry’s subsequent denouncement of foreign involvement in the race, a speedy retreat and reversal, reveals less about his own principles than it does about the failings of unquestioning support of “internationalism.”

With Old Europe irate over American refusal to defer to UN Security Council politicking in its Iraq War effort and the Democrats invigorated by the spark (and eventual flameout) of Howard Dean, Kerry has thrust himself to the head of the Left’s cosmopolitan moment. Having assumed the dual crowns of Democratic Presidential Nominee and Acting UN Ambassador to the United States, Kerry revealed his core constituency – not Soccer Moms, but Soccer (Prime) Ministers:

“I have heard from people, foreign leaders elsewhere in the world who don’t appreciate the Bush administration and would love to see a change in leadership of the United States,” he said on March 14.

But this tactic came to a stunning halt a mere four days later, when his campaign announced, “It is simply not appropriate for any foreign leader to endorse a candidate in America’s presidential election. John Kerry does not seek, and will not accept, any such endorsement.”

What happened? Quite simply, Mahathir Mohamed happened.

Mahathir, for 22 years Prime Minister of Malaysia, said, “I think Kerry would be much more willing to listen to the voices of the people and of the rest of the world.”

Of course, such words would have been utterly unremarkable were they spoken by France’s Chirac or de Villepin, Germany’s Schroeder, or the UN’s Annan. But instead they were uttered by Mahathir, a vigorous anti-Semite. (“Jews rule the world by proxy,” he announced last October.)

The rejection of Mahathir was a no-brainer. But Kerry’s unquestioning embrace of “internationalism” in preceding months has been equally mindless. Mahathir, Chirac and Schroeder are far more similar than they are different, particularly with respect to the buildup to and aftermath of the Iraq War.

Through the 1990s, Iraq and Malaysia enjoyed friendly diplomacy, with Mahathir’s Malaysia repeatedly calling for the end of economic sanctions against the nation. In March 2000, as his wife was leading a group to visit Iraq, Mahathir announced that, for the good of the Iraqi people, he opposed pressure to remove Hussein from office. Later, in July 2002, he reasserted his position: “It’s up to the people (of Iraq) to change the government if they can, but they cannot,” the Malaysian National News Agency quoted. Of course, by 2002 the human rights atrocities of the Hussein regime were widely known. Mahathir’s opposition to sanctions in the name of the “people” was laughable; the Hussein regime used any relaxation of sanctions to its own benefit, not to that of the people Saddam raped, starved, tortured, and murdered.

Hussein voiced his gratitude. In 1999, his vice-president told reporters that Saddam was happy to note the friendly bilateral ties between the nations. I don’t doubt Saddam: in 1999, Malaysia was a member of the UN Security Council – the arbiter of international “legitimacy” in the eyes of cosmopolitan internationalists.

While their motivations were less transparent, France and Germany demonstrated unity with Mahathir in the war debate. Following the Iraq War, Mahathir shared a joint press conference with Jacques Chirac. Chirac (a “good” endorser of Kerry) pledged full unity with Mahathir (a “bad” endorser): “I fully share the Prime Minister’s views. I will not add anything … I have the same views before, during, and after the war.”

Relations with Germany were no less cordial. At a dinner hosted by Mahathir in Schroeder’s honor, Mahathir said, “I would like to congratulate you for the very principled stand that Germany under your leadership took over the invasion of Iraq. We are much heartened to see that your country and a few European countries still believe in the UN and international consensus. We look up to you and other like-minded countries to restore confidence in the UN and in International law.”

My purpose is not to tie Chirac and Schroeder to Mahathir’s bigotry. Instead, it’s to highlight the important difference between the three: at least Mahathir went on the record with his underlying interests. We have absolutely no idea why Chirac and Schroeder stood steadfast against the attack on Hussein after they welcomed similar action against Slobodan Milosevic (another international effort without UN Security Council approval). What was the difference? Why defend Iraq? We’ll never know – at least not until the U.N. oil-for-food scandal is unpacked. But to take their opposition to U.S. action as virgin principle would be as ignorant as to have accepted Mahathir’s opposition as a neutral defense of the rule of international law.

Make no mistake: we’re all unilateralists. Each nation, in the end, works to further its own long-term interests. But Kerry and others so eager to embrace France, Germany and the UN pause for nary a moment to consider the unilateralist interests of these other “allies.” If they spent half as much time scrutinizing France and Germany’s motivations as they do Halliburton’s, they might not be so quick to embrace “internationalism” for its own sake.

Not every Prime Minister is Tony Blair. Some are Chiracs, some Schroeders, some Mahathirs. Until the Mahathir endorsement, Kerry – master of “nuance,” according to the latest buzz – made no effort to differentiate among them. Must they all scream their dirty secrets to the world before the Democrats take notice?

Adam White is the Record’s Editorial Page Editor. His column appears weekly.