Dance wins LSC race with handful of votes


Squeaking out a win by a slim margin, 2L Bill Dance was elected Wednesday to succeed 3L Mike French as president of the Law School Council [LSC].

“As I understand it, the top three [candidates] were separated by just ten votes,” Dance said. “I only won by four or five votes.”

Outgoing LSC president Mike French said he was “very excited to see four candidates for president …, especially since all four of those are students who have been very involved in the LSC.”

In the same election, the Class of 2003 selected Rick Coe as its Class Speaker and Head Class Marshal. Katie Lachter, Joi Chaney and Rachel Masory were elected as Coe’s fellow Class Marshals.

“There were some great candidates, and I definitely did not expect to get elected,” Coe said. “As you could see from the [campaign] posters, most of them have a great sense of humor. Better than mine, at any rate. Most of them were also much more attractive.”

One candidate expressed concern about low voter turnout for the election, noting that only 140 students from the Class of 2003 voted.

Dance said that one of his goals will be building the sense of community at HLS.

“I think people crave it,” he said. “I’d like to focus my energy on that.”

Dance said he plans three major strategies to meet that goal.

“One thing would be to be more aware of the non-J.D. students at this school,” he said. “There’s a concern that everybody [on LSC] had that LL.M.s are here for just a year — they’re an incredibly interesting and diverse group of people from all over the world who are kind of isolated from the Law School.”

Dance said the sense of community at HLS could also be improved by helping students “talk about the very difficult things that don’t get talked about in class, such as racial and gender issues.”

“Everybody knows they’re there, and the teachers acknowledge that they’re there, but they don’t really feel able to lead a dialogue about them because they would overpower the subject matter they’re teaching,” he said.

Dance said he would be like to set up ways for students to have that dialogue among themselves.

“There’s a 1L group doing this kind of thing,” he said. “They have a discussion group about race and gender. It seems like a reall good model for something that we could do on a wider scale.”

Finally, Dance said, HLS’ sense of community could be increased by facilitating social mixing between the 1L sections and the different classes.

“What I’d really like to do is have a wine and cheese thing every couple of weeks, and invite the entire school to it so that people get a chance to meet each other outside of their classes and their particular activities,” he said.

Dance said he would like to work to build the 1L law colleges.

“The 1L students on the Law Student Council right now say that they really have a lot of interest in building the section concept, that they want to be able to assist the new 1Ls in the fall in getting their feet on the group in sort of a structured way, not the way BSA does it, as friends,” he said.

Expressing skepticism at his chances for success, Dance said he would also like to continue outgoing president Mike French’s advocacy for physical improvements on campus.

“I don’t know how willing anyone is going to be to do anything that can’t be moved to Allston if that ends up being the decision,” he said. “That seems short-sighted to me, since we can’t move for 10 or 15 years anyway, but that seems to be the attitude right now.”

Reviewing his year in office, French said his biggest goals had been implementing the law colleges concept for 1Ls, changing the way registration is conducted and working for structural improvements to the Harkness Comm-ons and HLS classrooms.

“Maybe 2.2 of the three [goals] were accomplished,” French said, noting that the law colleges have been well-received.

One of the biggest changes that has been implemented with regards to registration is that this spring the lottery for legal professions classes will be held separately from the regular lottery. That way, French said, students can use their top lottery picks on other classes. In addition, French said, registration and priority wait-listing will be finished by May, so students won’t need to return to school early to activate their wait-list numbers.

As for renovations to the Hark, French said, “I don’t think substantial change will happen this year.” Still, he said, “it’s on the table much more so than before.”

Newly elected Class Speaker Rick Coe said that he was “very excited” about working with fellow Class Marshals Lachter, Chaney and Masory.

“They are all great people, and I expect that we will work well as a team,” he said. “I wanted to be a class marshal because I want next year to be fun.”

Coe said he has “two goals in mind” for his term: improving class unity and planning events “that are different and interesting.”

“There are a number of people in the class that I don’t know, and I hope to meet many of them next year,” he said.

Stating that he hoped to get “a lot of good input from members of the class,” Coe said, “I would like to think that one of my talents is turning good ideas into reality, but I need help coming up with the good ideas.”

Masory said she hopes her “class will really come together over the course of next year.”

“What I enjoyed most this year was planning social events as president of SAC [Student Activities Council] and an executive board member of JLSA [Jewish Law Students Association],” she said. “I ran for class marshal so that I could do the same for my class next year.”

Lachter said she shared Masory’s goals, and added: “I’m really happy to have the support of my classmates. It’s nice to know that they’re behind me.”

Chaney could not be reached for comment.

Mike Wiser and Meredith McKee contributed to this article.

Prof’s plan arouses protestors


Carrying signs and handing out fliers, about 20 students from the HLS student group Justice for Palestine gathered outside Professor Alan Dershowitz’s Professional Responsibilities class Thursday, March 14, to protest a recent article on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict authored by Dershowitz that recently ran in the Jerusalem Post. Monday students from the same group joined an undergraduate student-led protest outside Dersho-witz’s Thinking About Thinking class.

In the Post article (reprinted on page 4 of this issue), Dershowitz suggests that Israel could declare a four- or five-day unilateral “moratorium on reprisals.” Then Israel should “announce with precision exactly what it will do in response to the next act of terrorism,” Dershowitz writes. If attacks from Palestinian supporters continue after the moratorium is over, Dershowitz says, Israel should automatically destroy a pre-announced physical target, such as a “small village which has been used as a base for terrorist operations” after giving residents 24 hours to leave. This strategy, he writes, will put responsibility for damage to Palestinian areas on those who attack Israel and its citizens.

Najeeb Khoury, president of Justice for Palestine [JFP], said students who read the article (which circulated by email) decided to protest for several reasons.

“We felt that we should show [Dershowitz] and the larger university that by no means did we agree with what we view as an extreme proposal,” Khoury said. “We were thinking about it and on one level, but perhaps a less important level, we wanted to show Prof. Dershowitz that people were listening to what he was saying. But more importantly, we wanted to raise these issues of Israel and the occupation in general to the larger community.”

Dershowitz said the protest began as a silent demonstration about 10 or 20 minutes before his class started, and he approached the protestors to engage them in conversation.

Although Dershowitz said he was only a little surprised that students mounted a demonstration, he said he disagreed with the protestors’ message and described himself as “a moderate on these issues.”

“I would think that when civilians are being murdered deliberately, with 87 percent approval of the Palestinian people, they ought to get their priorities straight and worry more about innocent people being killed rather than houses being destroyed,” he said.

Noting that his policy proposal arose as a small offshoot of a book he is writing on terrorism in general, Dershowitz said that he challenged the protestors to a public debate on the merits of his proposal. Instead of accepting his proposal, Dershowitz said, the protestors had instead scheduled a presentation on Thursday to “present their side in a one-sided fashion.”

He added: “I’m sure eventually they’ll be forced into a debate, because I don’t think they’ll be able to maintain their position that they won’t debate. If they’re confident about their views, they should be able to submit them to the court of public opinion.”

Khoury said that JFP has not yet made a decision on whether or not its members will accept Dershowitz’s invitation to debate the proposal. However, he said the group has some reservations about such a debate.

“We believe that Dershowitz is giving us a false choice,” Khoury said. “Destroying property isn’t going to save any lives. Palestinian anger arises from the oppressive nature of occupation. Dershowitz’s proposal would increase the level of oppression and perpetuate the cycle.”

Khoury also said the members of JFP “don’t believe [Dershowitz] is an expert on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and neither are we as law students.” But he emphasized that no decision on a debate had yet been made and that “everybody [in JFP] seems to be in agreement that if Prof. Dershowitz wants to talk to students individually about his proposal, we would be more than happy to engage him in such a conversation. But we’re not sure what that would contribute to the larger community.”

Most students in Dershowitz’s Professional Responsibilities class arrived in the middle of the protest. On the classroom’s chalkboard, someone had left fliers and written “something to the effect of ‘Your legal ethics professor advocates war crimes,'” said Ben Hatch, a student in Dershowitz’s class.

Ellen Hochberg, also a student in Dershowitz’s class, said that when she arrived at the scene, protestors “seemed agitated and were kind of vehemently challenging him, but [Dershowitz] was pretty calmly responding to them.”

Hatch described a similar scene.

“I didn’t really hang out at the place of argument,” he said. “But my impression was that Prof. Dershowitz was addressing the group in a level tone and seemed to be responding to those who were yelling at him.”

Dershowitz said “[t]here was no disruption at all, and they acted completely within the rules of the university,” Dershowitz said. “They should be commended for doing that.”

Most observers arrived well into the protest, Khoury said, after Dershowitz had addressed the group for “a decent amount of time without any interruption at all.” Then, Khoury said, “a whole bunch of people were trying to make points and he was trying to respond.”

Student reaction to the protest was mixed.

Guy Goldberg, who arrived after the protest ended and students dispersed, said he found the statement written on the chalkboard “obnoxious.”

“Showing up full-force with lots of people, it was clearly to intimidate with a show of force,” Goldberg said. “If they really wanted to have a discussion, they could have had a rational, sit-down conversation. This is a law school – it should be more rational.”

Hatch said his feelings about the protest were mixed.

“I was pretty impressed that so many people came out to support a cause, even if it’s not one with which I necessarily agree,” he said. “At the same time, I felt like it wasn’t appropriate to demonstrate in front of a classroom because it naturally disrupted our class and ate into our class time.”

FENNO: Flying above Harvard


Fenno was quietly enjoying a Venti Nonfat Tazo Chai at Starbucks one afternoon. She was minding her own business, not looking at anyone for too long, sitting in an overstuffed chair next to an undergrad chemistry major playing with his molecule erector set. She was just starting a new chapter of Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life when she felt it: her ears were burning. She looked up quickly at Chemistry Boy. He looked at his molecules. Her ears really hurt, like they were thawing out after a long walk in February. She glanced around to see if anyone had recognized her, but being anonymous, fictional, and almost invisible, she knew that was impossible. Something was up, but not in here, she decided. Fenno put down Hofstadter without bookmarking the page (Who cares? she thought, only dorks bookmark pages in books), took a longish sip from her cup of chai, gathered her things into her bag, and walked through the door onto Massachusetts Avenue.

There was a decent wind blowing. Fenno snuck into 1600 Mass. Ave. on the heels of another student and rode the elevator to the roof. With a leap and a shout and a flick of the wrist, she was airborne, high above campus beneath a technicolor umbrella. Soaring over the Everett Street garage, she saw several faculty members loitering in the backs of pickup trucks, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. That explains faculty resistance to renovating the campus, Fenno thought to herself. In one corner of the lot, Professors David Rosenberg and Terry Fisher were kicking the bejesus out of Professors Zittrain and Kaplow. In another, Professors Barron, Jolls and Coates were playing hopscotch while Viscusi kept score. From his movements, Professor Herwitz appeared to be kibitzing behind Viscusi about his score-keeping, although all Fenno could hear was intermittent ejaculations of “earned surplus” and “capital hop, that one!”

Fenno’s spying on faculty recess was to be short-lived, however. She wasn’t the only one floating through the clouds today. “Hello Fenno,” called an airy voice from all around her. Fenno, startled by the interruption, looked about. She saw no one. “Up here, Fenno dear,” the hypnotic voice advised. Fenno tilted her umbrella just enough to see Colleen Chen perched atop an enormous curly ash blonde wig. Fenno’s face must have betrayed a degree of skepticism at what Colleen was wearing, because the latter cast her eyes down rapidly, spread her arms out at shoulder height in a “ta-da!” pose and announced, “Fun-lovin’ socialite.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” said Fenno, “what else could it have been?”

“Anything to make my ass look juicy,” Colleen added. “What are you doing up here?”

“I should ask you the same thing,” Fenno answered.

“Well, I’m on a short break from Berkeley, and you know there’s nothing like a transcontinental astral tour to open up the causal vision. My third chakra was just screaming at me to make the trip. Besides, my cat urged me to go in no uncertain terms.”

“By hitting you in the nose?” Fenno guessed.

“No, he told me to go.”

“You speak cat?” Fenno replied, incredulous.

“Yes,” said Colleen, “so do you.” Fenno tried to return her attention to the garage. “Remember, Fenno, you’re not just a drop in the ocean if you’re skinny-dipping in that ocean with a Belgian monk. Want a Skittle?”

“No thanks,” said Fenno, “I have sort of a headache.”

“Oh, sorry Fenno. You know, all you have to do is let your life force flow out to balance where balance is needed.”

“That reminds me, I also have to go to the bathroom,” Fenno responded.

“A spoonful of sugar,” began Colleen.

“Um, I think that’s my line,” Fenno said, cutting her off.

“Ah yes, well, then just grow your soul,” Colleen encouraged. Fenno replied by making the quite revolutionary gesture of smiling for no reason.

Fenno waved goodbye and blew over to Gropius. She began her descent through an air duct in Ames. Her ears grew hotter as she lost altitude. On reaching The RECORD’s office in the basement, she saw Jonathan Skrmetti half asleep over a computer. He was finishing his column about reverence to deceased politicians while listening to the Dead Kennedys. Fenno looked over his shoulder to read, “Aristotle recognized that the end of politics is to allow human beings to flourish. I won’t dwell on this (for fear of being Fennoed) . . .” Oh no, thought Fenno, he’s drummed out the Greeks. And they’re all dead.

Fenno decided to make her presence known. “Ahem,” Fenno declared as she drew her umbrella closed.

“Hi Fenno,” Jonathan answered, half turning around.

“You hurt my ears,” said Fenno.

“I didn’t mean to,” Jonathan apologized. “I just thought that since you hate big words and intellectual stuff, you’d be sure to get upset with me, so I wanted to cover myself in advance.”

“Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan” Fenno clucked, disapprovingly. “It’s not that you used a big word. In this case, the word’s not big enough. You should have used‘supercalifragilistic-Aristotledocious.’”

“But that’s not a word,” Jonathan objected.

“I beg your pardon,” Fenno reproved. “Even just the sound of it can make you seem precocious.” Jonathan stared at Fenno in dismay as she affixed a “Fenno Wuz Here” sticker to his head. “Now give me one of your teeth,” Fenno demanded.

Fenno left Jonathan a tad confused and her umbrella in the office (she’d have to come back here next Wednesday morning anyway) and ran up the stairs to Jarvis Field. Pulling out her cell phone, she made the call she’d been putting off to accept her post-graduation offer. Just as she closed the phone, she ran into Aaron Lamb and Lena Salaymeh.

“Calling your life partner, Fenno?” asked Lena.

“Oh hey,” Fenno said. “No, I was just calling my firm to accept my job offer.”

“Where are you working?” Aaron asked.

“Ducktail, Campbell, Chrysanthemu-men & Dogz,” Fenno answered.

“But they’re the staunchest defenders of the racist, patriarchal, homophobic status quo,” said Lena. “How can you abandon your identity as a member of an oppressed group just like that?”

“Well, they’re actually not that bad, and it’s not all that fun being oppressed,” Fenno replied. “Anyway, they tell me I’ll get to work on a lot of pro bono cases advancing the rights of pseudonymous, fictional, nearly-invisible, transgendered satirical columnists of major law school weeklies,” Fenno continued. “Who are capable of flight,” she added upon a second’s reflection.

“But Fenno,” Lena interjected, “think of the ontological torment of your friends and colleagues once you start working there.”

“Right,” said Fenno. “I understood everything up to ‘the’.”

Losing Kurt, playing on


I never met Kurt Cobain. I’m guessing that we wouldn’t have liked each other very much, anyway — me the uptight law student who throws on a suit to interview with law firms, votes Republican occasionally, and has an all-too-studied critic’s eye love of rock n’ roll. And Kurt, well, Kurt was Kurt. As pop-icon-martyrs go, Kurt was in some ways embarrassingly mundane. Kurt wasn’t some fragile outerspaceman who turned into a swirling fog of sensual exuberance when you put a guitar in his hands the way Hendrix was, nor was he a self-fascinated, faux poetic, badly drunken, mesmerizing thug like Jim Morrison.

Kurt was, one suspects, something more like the kid in the big public high school who grew his hair long, smoked pot in the bathroom, scribbled drawings, slogans and maybe some angsty poetry in a dog-eared notebook, and toted a perpetually sullen glare as either a weapon or a security blanket. Cobain was blunt and real and had all the hang-ups and fears and mediocracies that the rest of us have. Reading bits and pieces of his now-released journals, the voyeuristic public gets to see fragments of just how human Kurt was — little scraps of poetry of varying quality, the occasional wry humorous observation (the same Kurt who had the simple cheek to wear a “corporate magazines still suck” t-shirt to a Rolling Stone photo shoot), and perhaps most ironically, a desire for privacy and personal space in the midst of a degree of fame he had clearly never before contemplated. And in that respect, the whole thing tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth — a combination of cynical puzzlement at Courtney’s willingness to unleash and sell Kurt’s innermost thoughts and an exasperation with what is sure to be reams of paper spent psychoanalyzing him. No, if anything, the revelation of Kurt’s journals is that the Kurt worth singling out for historical memory is the one found in his music. For all of Kurt’s unexceptional humanity, at the helm of Nirvana he was a bristling avatar — an elegant explosion of angst and rage and righteous outrage at all that is painful, cruel and confusing in a world that got under his skin. Kurt’s music was beautiful, brutal, dense and truly exceptional.

Nirvana’s recent would-be greatest hits collection, Nirvana, presents a modest reminder of the depth and complexity of Kurt’s musical legacy. Take it as granted, of course, that this is precisely the type of thing that will piss off the purists. It is debatable but probably unlikely that Kurt would have sanctioned this type of thing during his career, and regardless most hardcore fans will probably enjoy complaining more about what was left off the disc than enjoying what was actually included. In the end, though, it is a point worth whining about — spanning fourteen tracks, Nirvana still feels strangely elliptical. “Been A Son” and “Sliver” present a tantalizing taste of the band’s grindy pop side, while two samplings from the MTV Unplugged album (“All Apologies,” “The Man Who Sold the World”) serve to document the disarmingly spartan musicianship of what was, in the context of their career, an unusual swan song. In between, the disc is dominated by the four main singles off of Nevermind (the one disc most casual buyers are almost guaranteed to have). Even with the addition of a previously unreleased gem, “You Know You’re Right,” the whole affair feels like a fairly thin attempt to assess a surprisingly deep catalogue. If anything, Nirvana portrays a band with far more evolutionary potential than even their most ardent fans might have recognized. As the fury of Bleach and Nevermind gave way to the haunting complexity of In Utero, Nirvana was in the process of joining the legion of bands whose initial punk roar mellowed into thoughtful artistry of the highest caliber (think, for example, Wire).

While Kurt’s untimely death no doubt contributed to the popular appreciation of the band, Nirvana suggests that they had plenty more to accomplish had he survived. Aside from developing as a songwriter, Kurt’s messages were getting bolder (witness the controversial “Rape Me”) and his earnestness was unquestionable. One suspects that rather than making thinly-disguised biopics (I’m talking to you, Mathers) or appointing himself spokesperson for the Third World (Bono et al.), Cobain would have continued to push the envelope of expression and caustic self-searching. Nor was the whole thing all about Kurt — stacked in a row, Nirvana’s prominent singles testify to the oft-neglected primacy of Krist Novoselic’s basslines, and while Grohl is most noticeable in the punch of the Steve Albini-produced later material, the band as a whole sounds much tighter in retrospect than they did along the way. Simply put, they weren’t just loud, they weren’t just fashionable, they were really, amazingly good. Most people didn’t need a one-disc compilation to remind them that Nirvana was a great band, though. What this collection ultimately proves is that it is their entire catalogue that is essential.

Left with a legacy such as this, it was undoubtedly hard for the rest of Nirvana to know just how to pick up the pieces. Novoselic has generally shirked the mainstream musical limelight, focusing instead on political efforts (including the anti-WTO protest concert) and an experimental fusion of styles in the short-lived band Sweet 75. Grohl, on the other hand, dove straight back into it, from behind the drum-kit to front the Foo Fighters, in some ways the perfect rejoinder to those who would hound him with his oh-so-seminal past. Poppy, joyful, humorous, smooth and gleefully straightforward, the Foos have ascended to the status of one of rock’s most consistently agreeable acts, blending richly textured epics like “Everlong” with bubblegum delights like “Big Me.” If Nirvana was big and gritty and challenging, the Foos are quaint, familiar, and embraceable.

The Foo Fighters’ fourth and newest album, One by One, serves primarily to consolidate what they’ve done thus far by mining the crunchier side of their pop sensibilities while retaining the increasing atmospheric gravity that has developed over their last two albums.

Grohl, for his part, seems a bit charged up by his recent foray with the Queens of the Stone Age: One by One’s first three songs lurch forward in pure QOTSA fashion before settling back into a classic rock vein on “Times Like These.” Speaking of Queen(s) and classic rock, perhaps one of the album’s more puzzling moments is the appearance of former Queen guitarist Brian May on “Tired” — rather than bust out with a trademark searing quintuple-tracked solo, May seems content to smolder strangely in the background in synthesizer-like fashion now and then. Things open up a bit on the catchy big sky number “Halo,” the riffy “Overdrive,” and what is probably instrumentally the album’s strongest number “Burn Away,” but by the time the dense closer “Come Back” (which again smacks of QOTSA) comes around the whole affair starts to feel a bit flat. For the first time in four albums, the Foo Fighters seem unable to come up with a spectacular hook on any song in particular. One by One instead showcases the Foos’ technical talent while neglecting some of their atmospheric virtues — Grohl’s guitar is clearly accomplished (leaps and bounds more fluid than when he started) and drummer Taylor Hawkins’ busy stickwork is inspiring as ever, but it’s just not as much fun as a Foo Fighers album should be. Whether One by One’s comparatively stiff personality demotes the Foos on the charts remains to be seen,
but either way it manages to mark a career plateau of a band whose greatest challenge from this day forward will be to either chart new terrain or recapture the thrill of their well-loved formula.

But what is formula, anyway? History is starting to demonstrate, I think, that the “Seattle” or “grunge” sound supposedly mapped out by Nirvana was itself never the formula everyone wanted it to be. Indeed, perhaps the only band more constrained by the labels and expectations of the “grunge” movement than Nirvana was Pearl Jam. While rather surprisingly and viciously bashed in Kurt’s journals, presumably because of their relative lack of punky street cred (not helped by Vedder’s occasional self-important posturing), Pearl Jam has always been a retro-rock band in a grunge band’s clothing, owing more to Hendrix, the Stones, the Who and ’70s arena rock than the Melvins or Black Flag.

After gradually thwarting Top 40 expectations with such dense albums as No Code and Yield, Pearl Jam has emerged in the twenty-first century as a jam band of the highest order, releasing no less than 72 live recordings from their European and American tours in 2000 and 2001. Boasting classic rock covers, constantly retooled songs, and in their best moments, a riveting intensity they did much to transform their gestalt from supposed Gen-X spokesmen to road warrior tunesmiths.

Pearl Jam’s new and much-anticipated album, Riot Act, seems to complete the transition. More than anything else in their catalogue, Riot Act sounds like a collection of songs designed as much for live interpretation later as they are for the album itself. Plangent guitar moments on songs like “Love Boat Captain,” and “Cropduster” promise extended workouts in some open air amphitheater, while the quirky Eastern-flavored opener “Can’t Keep” begs for nightly reinvention.

The album occasionally seems a bit hesitant in its energy — McCready’s solos on the Ament-penned “Ghost” have the setup to shred just as hard as, say, “State of Love and Trust” (a gem from the Singles soundtrack) but somehow he sounds as if he’s pulling up just a little short. It’s the rehearsal quality of Riot Act that makes it both intriguing and confounding. While in one moment the album glows with the humble beauty of the sparse “Thumbing My Way,” the leaden and almost smothered funk of “You Are,” counterpoints it with inconsistency. Later on, the droning, haunting “Arc” comes out of nowhere, setting up the rootsy, slowly-unfolding guitar buildup on “All or None.” Part of this phenomenon can undoubtedly be attributed to the collaborative nature of the project — more than any of their earlier albums, Riot Act features songs written by Ament, Cameron and Gossard in addition to those penned by Vedder, and throughout it they manage to prevent the type of authorial typecasting that often happens in such situations. While, yes, Vedder tends to write some of the slow ones, his jangly “Green Disease” has every bit as much drive as Ament’s bluesy “1/2 Full.” Lyrically, Cameron’s work is among the most arresting as he imbues the rocker “Wanted to Get Right” with a simple honesty that even Vedder doesn’t completely capture with his warbly vocals.

Lyrically, the only real flop is the anti-George W. Bush tirade, “Bushleaguer,” that rides the obvious wordplay on the Prez’s baseball past with more smug pride than it probably deserves — a weak effort when compared with Neil Young’s far more gripping attack on Bush’s father in “Rockin’ In the Free World,” or even Rage’s election rant in “Guerrilla Radio.” Stuck in the middle of an abstract and often deeply personal album, it’s an odd number indeed, and emblematic of the ups and downs of the album as a whole.

While in the end it’s unclear what exactly Pearl Jam was going for on Riot Act, they manage to come up with something interesting. While it may lack the fire of Ten or the pure craftsmanship of Vs., it remains an interesting collection of songs and a worthwhile addition to the catalog. Ranging from gorgeous to curious, the 15 performances here show just how much terrain Pearl Jam can cover, and how well they generally, if haphazardly, pull it off. The true promise of the songs it contains, however, will be best harnessed when Pearl Jam takes this Riot Act on the road.

8 MILE: The hip-hop Rocky


Eminem can act. Granted, the rapper’s role as Jimmy in 8 Mile is substantially based on his own life. But even so, Eminem shows sides of himself as Jimmy that fans of his often-angry rap music have not yet seen.

8 Mile takes place in Detroit, Michigan (Eminem’s home town), and is named after 8 Mile Road, a highway that divides a predominantly black neighborhood from a predominantly white one. Jimmy Smith Jr. has a dream of becoming a well-known rapper, but he faces even more obstacles than the average would-be rapper. The black community is skeptical that a white boy can rap, especially after Jimmy chokes when given an opportunity to perform early in the movie (this scene being the inspiration for the triumphal “Lose Yourself” song from the soundtrack). Although he seems to be one of the few characters in the movie who is employed, Jimmy doesn’t have enough money to move out of his mother’s trailer, where she lives with a man Jimmy went to high school with. Jimmy also worries about his little sister Lily’s upbringing, and the violence to which she is exposed.

The film’s conclusion is completely predictable, especially since every viewer knows that Eminem does, of course, have skills, and that he probably wouldn’t be in this movie if he weren’t going to demonstrate them. However, most viewers are probably at least unsure about, if not doubtful of, Eminem’s acting ability. Those people will be pleasantly surprised that the Oscar buzz isn’t all hype.

8 Mile can be a bit myopic: There is no substantial independent development of any character other than Jimmy, with the other characters mostly serving as props to service the exposition of Jimmy’s personality. Jimmy can be angry with his mother (expertly played by Kim Basinger), protective of his little sister, supportive of a friend who worships him and flirty with Brittany Murphy’s character, Alex.

The scenes involving the interaction between Jimmy and his sister Lily are the most touching in the movie. Despite the many forces pulling Jimmy in different directions, including his friends, his job, his music, and his motivation to move out of his mother’s trailer, Jimmy does his best to protect his sister from the violence that occurs in her home and in the community. Although he is sometimes ineffectual in this protection since he starts many fights himself, he is consistently more concerned about Lily’s upbringing than Lily and Jimmy’s mother, played by Kim Basinger.

Also moving were the relationships between Jimmy and his circle of friends, collectively known as Three One Third, after the area code for Detroit. Jimmy, most often called Rabbit by the group, often seemed to provide a voice of reason or at least motivation to his friends. The friends are fiercely loyal, especially in their on- and off-stage struggles against their rivals, Leaders of the Free World.

Throughout the movie, there are several rap battles, emceed by Future (Mekhi Phifer), in which members of Free World compete against Jimmy. Eminem fans will definitely enjoy these scenes, and the rapper’s wit and intelligence may just draw in a few new fans. Xzibit and Proof also make cameos in some of the battle scenes.

The one definite problem with the movie is Brittany Murphy’s character, Alex. Alex becomes Jimmy’s love interest after they see each other at Jimmy’s job, and then at a party later that night. Not only does Murphy fail to bring anything unique to the role, but her character is completely inconsistent as well. The viewer feels that she clearly understands Alex’s motivations and feelings, only to then find Alex acting completely contrary to her stated goals for no understandable reason. This aspect of the movie was particularly frustrating in that there is no particular reason why Alex’s character needed this added complexity.

In the end, the message of 8 Mile (Take risks! Follow your dreams!), like Rocky and other tales before it, was cheesy and predictable. But who really wants to see this movie for its message? Fans of Eminem will enjoy seeing Eminem’s intensity applied to a new medium. Eminem will almost certainly gain some new fans, at least of his mic skill, if not his acting ability and personality.

Whatcha lookin’ at Jackass?


I am not ashamed. I saw Jackass: The Movie… and I loved it. But, unless you know what you are in for, you may want to think twice about this vehicle for Johnny Knoxville and his brotherhood of misfits to take their shenanigans, stunts and stupidity to the silver screen. Aptly named, this conglomeration of wacky on-location pieces features the stars of the controversial (and recently defunct) MTV show putting themselves at risk of losing life, limb and their lunches. Jackass pulls no punches… literally.

Jackass is not for the squeamish nor the easily-offended. The movie is full of self-induced violence, bathroom humor and unnecessary nudity — lowbrow comedy at its absolute lowest. That being said, if you can handle the sight of grown men giving themselves paper cuts between their toes, attempting a “bungee-wedgie” and snorting lines of wasabi, you just might make it to the credits.

Jackass has no plot, nor does it need one. Fans of the television show will be glad to learn that Knoxville & Co. did not try to work their antics into a script that has them battling an evil genius or trying to save Christmas. Instead, they merely use the 90-minute format to show all of the things that couldn’t get past the TV censors. The stunts in Jackass are generally clever, despite their occasional repulsiveness. Certain segments are devised as practical jokes while others seem more like a game of “Truth or Dare” gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Some of the highlights include Stephen Glover (aka Steve-O) walking a tightrope over a pit of alligators, Chris Pontius as “Party Boy” doing an unexpected striptease in a Tokyo electronics store, and Spike Jonze (creator of Jackass and Being John Malkovich) dressed as an old man who barrels into a crowded intersection on a motorized cart screaming “my brakes are broken!” But perhaps the defining moment of the movie is when Johnny Knoxville voluntarily gets shot in the stomach at close range with a small sack of plastic balls normally used by police in a riot. The anguish on Knoxville’s face as he paces around the lobby of the shooting range in anticipation of the stunt is a telling sign of the mentality behind the show and the movie. He is obviously afraid of the imminent harm. But what’s more, he also knows that he has no choice but to submit to the pain so that he can have bragging rights over the rest of his crew. In the world of the Jackasses, scars and bruises become the signs of victory and success is judged by the number of broken bones.

Ordinarily, this seems like the kind of movie that would appeal only to those who own the entire Best of Backyard Wrestling and Faces of Death collections. But, Jackass: The Movie approaches each “stunt” with the self-effacing acknowledgement that what is about to happen is moronic, immature, dangerous and embarrassingly appealing. Jackass puts together 90 minutes worth of moments that appeal to the 13-year-old boy that lives inside all of us. This movie is for all those times you have been completely grossed out or embarrassed by your friends, and yet, while covering your eyes, think “this is the funniest thing I have ever seen.”

However, this is by no means a date movie… unless you are hoping that your date will barf in your lap by the end of the evening. There are certain “stunts” which many viewers will find extremely hard to stomach, most including some sort of bodily expulsion. But, despite their crudeness, these stunts are like a train wreck or an ugly baby; you don’t want to see it, but you can’t stop staring.

This is why the Jackass franchise is so popular. It embarrasses viewers for enjoying themselves and then laughs right along with them. You have to accept Jackass: The Movie for what it is. It’s not a film, but merely a bunch of morons doing dumb stuff. If this premise alone appeals to you, Jackass may just be the funniest film this year. If not, consider this a warning.

VINO & VERITAS: Beyond Dershowitz


“Do you have a chardonnay?” The diner’s question to the waiter is somewhat rhetorical, of course, as the answer is almost never no. Chardonnay is ubiquitous. Chardonnay is safe. Based on the typical wine list at your average restaurant and what fills much of the shelf space at wine shops, most Americans drinking white wine drink chardonnay most of the time. Add in a few other favorites — say, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio (or pinot gris if you’re feeling French or Oregonian), and maybe riesling — and you have the white wine repertoire of most casual American wine drinkers.

There is, to be sure, much exploring to do among these four grapes. Nevertheless, there are an endless number of other white varieties worth experiencing. If you occasionally pass over the tried-and-true Dershowitzes in favor of a Bagenstos or a Steiker, you might end up pleasantly surprised. In the hopes that you will opt for something different next time the waiter asks for your drink order, I’d like you to meet three white varieties that you may not have tried or even heard of before. My criteria were that the varietal be readily available — most decent wine shops should have several versions of each — and that the grape appear frequently in its unblended form — so you know when you’re drinking a wine of that type. As an added bonus, the three off-the-beaten-path varietals I chose often come without the significant tolls that their super-highway counterparts bring.

The first is the Loire valley specialty chenin blanc (shen-uhn blanc). This grape tends to make crisp and refreshing (i.e. acidic) wines with earthy, citrussy, or otherwise fruity flavors. You may not find many bottles labeled “chenin blanc,” as your most likely encounter will be with certain central Loire valley wines (remember, French wines tend to be named for locations, not grapes). If you look for Vouvray, however, a major Loire wine area, you will get 100 percent chenin blanc. Chenin is also common in the New World (a wine term meaning “not Europe”), including South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and California, but outside the central Loire it is usually blended and plays second fiddle to other grapes.

Staying with Loire for the moment, you may also want to give muscadet a try. Not to be confused with muscat or moscato, muscadet (moose-ka-day) is both a region in the western Loire valley and the grape that grows there (the grape has taken the name of the region, but is more formally called melon de bourgogne). Muscadet is usually quite dry, and like chenin blanc, its crisp acidity defines it. Here in the States, the muscadet you find will most likely be labeled Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine, a sub-district of Muscadet. Much of this wine will also carry the designation sur lie (sir lee), which means that the dead yeast cells from the fermentation process were left in the wine as it aged, giving it an additional yeasty flavor (think Champagne). Muscadet has one other defining characteristic worth noting: It’s cheap!

The gewürztraminer (ga-vertz-tra-mean-er) grape tends to make rich, aromatic wines with lively complex flavors and a softness that comes from a lack of acidity. Gewürztraminer wines are a specialty of Alsace (I know, too much France—but they are just so good at this). Alsatian gewürztraminer will require less effort to identify than most French varietals, for unlike their countrymen in other regions, many Alsatian producers actually put the grape on their labels. In addition to dry white wines, gewürztraminer can also make full-bodied, late-harvest dessert wines. Outside of Alsace, gewürztraminer plays only a minor role in Europe. You are far more likely to find New World versions, particularly from New Zealand, Washington, and Oregon.

I chose a bottle of each of these to taste, all purchased at the Wine & Cheese Cask. Here’s what I found:

2000 Les Capitaine, Les Aumones Vouvray ($8.99) — This wine was surprising in its almost complete lack of any aroma — it took a few sniffs before I could identify the slight grapefruit and wet leaves smell. Its taste offered little more. Not particularly interesting, it was acidic and tart (typical for chenin) with hints of flowers and green apple. Chenin blanc can be much better than this. Indeed, this wine offered yet further proof that it is just very difficult to find good wine for under $10. If you want to try chenin blanc, spend just two or three dollars more and look for Marc Bredif’s Vouvray, which is consistently very good.

2001 Domaine de la Pépière, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine ($7.99) — A better wine than the Vouvray, despite the fact that I generally prefer Vouvray to Muscadet. Due to the sur lie style, there was a strong yeasty smell. The wine was bone dry, acidic, and quite bitter (particularly on the finish). The main problem was that beyond those characteristics, there was not much flavor. Concentration finally revealed grapefruit, but on the whole it was rather bland. This makes it sound worse than it was, however, as it was nevertheless a refreshing, easy-drinking wine. So long as you are not in the mood for something particularly enchanting, this was not bad.

2001 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Gewurztraminer ($7.99) — So as not to anger my British friends, I chose a non-French wine this time (no, they don’t make wine, they just hate the French). Chateau Ste. Michelle is a significant Washingtonian producer that tends to make reliable rieslings and, apparently, pretty decent gewürztraminer. This wine more than made up for the lack of aroma in the other two — the nose was huge. The predominant smells were fresh mint and gingerbread. While sweeter than the other two, it was not overly so. It was big (i.e. high in alcohol) with tropical fruit flavors that I couldn’t quite pin down (kiwi? mango?), but that lingered for several minutes after swallowing. A surprisingly good wine for the very low price.

Ames Teams: It’s All About the Glory


Team Gunther
Team White

The Gunther Team

It depends on who you ask, but some say 3L Greg Lipper will lose Ames.

Ask his teammates, however, and you’ll get a different story.

“Either we’ll have won, or we got robbed,” said 3L Mark Freeman of his team’s chances. The Gerald Gunther Memorial Team is named after famed liberal constitutional law scholar Gerald Gunther, whose textbook is one of the best known on the subject. Gunther died this July at age 75.

The Gunther Team consists of 3Ls Lipper, Freeman, Beth Mellen Harrison, Josh Solomon, Norina Edelman and Louis Tompros.

Team members said the choice of Gunther’s name was appropriate, as five of the six members are liberals. In this year’s case, Morales v. Gallows, the Gunther Team represents the more left-wing side as well. The case pits a tenant against a Christian landlord who seeks to exclude non-married cohabiting couples from her building. The petitioner’s name, Christina Morales, is meant to be a clever pun invented by the Board of Student Advisers, which administers the competition.

The Gunther Team prides itself on a tough work ethic. “We pulled all-nighters the night before our briefs were due,” Lipper said. Freeman added that, in total, the team has used all but 40 minutes of the total time available before brief deadlines, turning in their work at the absolute last minute.

Late nights and hard work are all part of the fabled Ames Competition, an annual event which has become both a social and legal spectacle of sorts for the Law School community. The competition mimics the appellate process, with teams filing briefs and making oral arguments before actual judges. Teams compete in three rounds: quarterfinals in the fall, semifinals in the spring and the finals the following fall. To make it this far in the competition, would-be litigators have to be among the best in their classes.

By this point, Gunther members say, there’s still a lot left to do.

Such as? “Learn the law,” jokes Tompros. Freeman, who serves as one of the team’s two oralists along with Lipper, added that, “Greg and I will have to learn not to say stupid things.” But the team’s self-effacing humor belies what is no doubt rigorous and carefully-honed preparation — as soon as they’re done interviewing, they will be rehearsing in front of a video camera to catch every possible nuance of their performance.

Asked to comment on the dire predictions of his chances — immortalized both in the name of an IM flag football team and The RECORD’s own Fenno column, Lipper sought to set the record straight.

“[The flag football team] is a bunch of people I lived with 1L year,” he said. “Last year they were ‘The Fighting Greg Lippers.’ So this year, I harassed them to name the team after me again.”

So what does the Gunther squad think of their opponents?

“The other team speaks for themselves,” Lipper said.

The White Team

“The other team calls us ‘the lifestyle team’” said 3L Mary Catherine Martin of the Byron White Memorial Team. The team is named after the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice and football Hall of Famer who turned down a position on the Yale Law Journal to play professional football with the NFL.

“I don’t think we’ve even pulled an all-nighter” added 3L Carlos Lazatin.

In contrast to their hard-charging opponents, the White Team — featuring 3Ls Martin, Lazatin, Jeffrey Lerner, Rita Lin, Nathaniel Reinsma, and Matthew Stephenson — takes their Ames practicing slow and steady.

“We’ve been having to do a little bit each day rather than a few bursts,” said Stephenson, one of the team’s oralists, for whom “a little a day” means about three or four hours.

By now, Stephenson says the team is focusing solely on refining its oral arguments. “We just need a little more practice,” he said. “These guys [the non-oralists] just throw questions at us. They hit us with everything they can think of. It’s like batting practice.”

It’s been a long but entertaining journey for the White Team, which, like their opponents, is made up almost entirely of Law Review or Section II members (and several who are both). All agree that one of the most important factors in choosing an Ames team is getting along with each other.

“Fit was a big factor for us,” said Lazatin. “We knew we were going to spend large amounts of time with each other.”

The White Team also prides itself on its diversity. Representing the conservative side petitioner in this final round — as the team says it has had to in every round — is a group of two liberals, two moderates and two conservatives. The team is similarly split along religious and regional lines, with two Protestants, two Catholics and two Jews. Two members each also come from the West, Midwest and East.

If the White Team wins, they will take home $750 along with the glory of being this year’s Ames champions.

“We’re not in it for the money,” said Lazatin. “I don’t think we’re getting a living wage if you work it out by the hour.” He added that the losing team takes home $650, making the entire Ames competition essentially a battle for $100.

Does Stephenson (who seems prone to sports similes) have anything to say about the Gunther opponents? “It’s like being a pitcher facing another famous pitcher,” he said. “I’m not worrying about the pitchers, I’m worrying about the hitters.”

Still, when asked, White Team members made the boast: Greg Lipper will lose Ames.

The (almost) perfect pizza joint


Every pizza joint makes their own crust, and the better ones cook their tomato sauce rather than spoon it out of a can. But every morning, the workers at Real Pizza even make fresh mozzarella cheese from scratch. This sort of passion for ingredients is tough to find within walking distance of Harvard, where most pizza makes me weep bitter tears and yearn for Domino’s. At its best moments Real Pizza is comparable to my favorite Neapolitan pizza place in Rome. Given that the restaurant is the brainchild of Rene Becker, who owns the nearby Hi-Rise Café and is responsible for its delicious range of breads, this is not a big surprise, but nonetheless a pleasant one.

Becker will never be accused of pandering to the masses. At Real Pizza, all pizzas are 12″, the only soft drink available is a “Real Coke,” ($2), a made-to-order combination of Coca-Cola syrup and carbonated water that is warm, syrupy and verges on flat, and the few uncomfortable tables in the small storefront feel like a begrudging concession to would-be diners. The staff is brusque and curt, acting like priests at a pizza temple. Fortunately for the customers streaming in and out of the place all day, Real Pizza really is a temple, treating the authenticity and quality of its ingredients with a respect normally reserved for minor deities. Because all the pizzas are the same size, Real Pizza can employ a loud timer to make sure the pizzas come out just right each time.

The eponymous Real Pizza ($10) is the best showcase of these ingredients by far. The piquant, acidic tomato sauce has soft chunks of fresh tomato and the perfect amount of oregano, basil and sage. Even given Becker’s extensive background in baking, the quality of the crust is astonishing. The thin crust is a paradox: blackened and crisp on the bottom, it leaves trails of flour rather than grease on your fingers, yet it is moist, chewy and slightly sweet in the middle. The air bubbles and loft of the crust are quite surprising given the electric ovens Real Pizza uses. The mozzarella rounds the pizza out perfectly: Bubbling in pools on the pizza, it has a clean, buttery flavor with just a hint of sourness, and perfectly rounds out the flavor of the pie.

Adding a topping or two to the flagship pie can’t hurt, but the more exotic offerings at Real Pizza, while they retain the extremely high standard of the ingredients, combine them in ill-advised ways. The “Wolf 359,” one of many astronomy-themed pizzas on the menu, replaces the mozzarella and tomato sauce with Red Bliss potatoes, Reggiano parmesan and chives. It doesn’t’ work. The potatoes are soft, too similar texturally to the crust, and the whole result is too bland. It comes off like scalloped potatoes with an infusion of extra carbohydrates.

The white clam pizza ($17), with fresh clams, more parmesan, garlic and parsley is frustrating – the clams are tender and moist, despite being fired in the oven, if you pick them off the pizza, but the Reggiano parmesan totally overwhelms them if you eat the pie straight. This is not something you want if you’re paying close to $20 for what is essentially a small pizza. The Sicilian-style deep-dish pizza that is sold by the slice ($2 for cheese, $2.50 for pepperoni), dries out too much when reheated, and in any case has a skewed crust-to-topping ratio. The pepperoni is nothing special, leaking oil all over the fresh mozzarella and spoiling its flavor.

Italian cooking traditionally focuses on letting a small number of high-quality ingredients speak for themselves, and Real Pizza is certainly strongest when it does this rather than wandering off into pretentious complexity. Stick to the simple stuff, though, and your Real Pizza experience will be just that.

Getting There

Real Pizza

359 Huron Ave. Cambridge


Hours: Mon-Thurs 9-9, Fri 9-10, Sat. 5-9

The Balcony


A sign on the door outside the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s production of The Balcony warned that the performance would feature loud noises and flashes of light. It didn’t mention “abstraction,” for which the audience also needed to prepare. Nonetheless, I appreciated the chance to see an excellent production of an interesting show.

I showed up to the performance unprepared, having been preoccupied in the days prior with civil procedure and the D.C. peace march. Knowing that The Balcony is a work by Jean Genet, I did piece together enough dim college recollections to expect something racy, complicated and French. Thus I brought along an anthropology grad student friend for help with any complicated conceptual stuff that might come up. As the lights went down, I hoped she would not be bored.

That proved not to be a problem.

Within the first 30 seconds of the show, ear-splitting sounds of warfare gave way to the sight of a prostitute (Emily Galvin) servicing a robed bishop (Greg Gagnon). As the madam negotiated with this and other clients and with her protégé/pimp (Uche Amaechi), the small audience gradually stopped giggling and began puzzling over such dialogue as “the devil himself is the most famous of bad actors.”

My friend leaned over after the second scene, and I hoped to hear a cogent explanation of the play’s message trip off her lips. Instead she said, “This is way out there.” I couldn’t argue. Eventually we stopped worrying about literal meanings and settled in for an evening of engaging (if sometimes bizarre to the point of absurdity) theater.

The title location in this play is the business headquarters of a brothel, managed by Madam Irma (Emily Knapp). While she matches up her employees (Sara Lindsay Bartel, Kathleen Stetson) with such clients as the Bishop, the Judge (Bill McAdams) and the General (Nicholas Ma), “the rebels” are said to be encroaching on the city. Each of the powerful men enjoys being dominated while questioning what his role will be in a post-revolution society. Meanwhile, one prostitute (Scottie Thompson) has run off with her main client (Dan Cozzens) while another important customer (Matt Boch, well cast as the Police Chief) is late for a balcony appointment, adding suspense to a charged situation

By the second act, political power has changed hands, giving way to new debates over who controls whom and what each individual hopes to achieve in society. The Queen’s Envoy (Peter Dodd) commands attention with particularly ridiculous lines in the midst of chaos: “A Royal Palace is never finished exploding!” There are revelations, confrontations, a castration. (Explaining any more of the plot or thematic content of this show would not only ruin the surprise of several dramatic turns, but also risk revealing my own confusion about what exactly was going on.)

Director Andrew Boch wrought focused performances from a large cast. The acting particularly impressed me with its roles so far removed from the presumed actual life of Harvard College undergrads — although sexuality, violence, domination and submission are of course, in their varying forms, universal. Emily Knapp had an especially large responsibility as Madam Irma, whom she played with great presence, although I think her demeanor changed too little as Irma rose and fell from power over the course of the show.

The producers (Helen Estabrook, Catharina Lavers, and Jeremy Reff) and technical director (Todd Weekley) also deserve credit for an all-around well-executed play. Yard-high pyramids and other impressive abstract sculptures (by Julian Rose) dominated the floor level of the set (designed by Harry Graff Kimball), while the carefully-appointed balcony loomed on scaffolding overhead. Highly appropriate costumes (designed by Meredith James and Melia Marden) featured a touch of ’80s punk, while the drum-and-bass music booming during scene changes enhanced the sensation that this was a very modern production, even though the play was written in 1955.

A bit of history: Jean Genet drew much of his inspiration from personal experiences as a thief, a prostitute and a soldier in the French-Algerian war. A band of his intellectual friends, including Jean-Paul Sartre, had bailed him out of jail a few years before The Balcony was published. The show indirectly invokes images of the Algerian war, the Spanish Civil War and other modern conflicts, as well as prison and a medieval court.

The Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, like so many other entities at the College, takes itself very seriously, but with good reason. The Loeb Drama Center, where this and all other HRDC “Mainstage” productions take place, is a large and well-appointed facility. The success of this show, with its challenging content and large cast and crew, bodes well for the remainder of the HRDC season.

For those interested in pushing dramatic boundaries even further than this abstract modern classic, the HRDC features innovative works on its “Experimental” stage. The next Mainstage show, meanwhile, will be much more traditional: Look for a production of Cabaret coming up next month.

The humble beginnings of ‘Bush unleashed’


While last week focused on the future – the next two years of “Bush Unleashed” — some of the most interesting political commentary in recent days consisted of looks to the past — to the Bush candidacy and to the Bush war effort. While these expositions offer a look at the development of George W. Bush from pol to statesman, the more interesting theme is the development of the media’s perception of President Bush, from poseur to President.

The widely-anticipated HBO documentary, Journeys With George (which will run through the month), chronicles the 2000 Bush campaign through the lens of Alexandra Pelosi, NBC news producer (and daughter of Democrat House Leadership hopeful Nancy Pelosi). While promo spots focused on moments of cartoonish Dubya-tude — mugging for the camera; spelling out “Victory,” YMCA-style; blindfolded, exclaiming “I can’t hear you, ’cause I can’t see” — the full feature focused less on Bush’s faux pas and more on Bush’s political maturity and the media’s relationship with him.

From Pelosi’s vantage point (namely, the back of a press plane, marked as much by its political coverage as by drinking and cavorting worthy of Hunter Thompson’s 1972 campaign chronicle), President Bush appears a novel, albeit charming, lightweight — as reflected in Pelosi’s late-campaign poll of her fellow reporters, which predicted Al Gore as the likely victor. A reporter compares the Bush campaign to a bologna sandwich: “A white bread candidate with a baloney message, with cheesy advertising.”

But by November, the reporters who spent a full year following the President came to realize that they had been duped by Dubya, their coverage of Bush colored by the rose-colored shade of a candidate whose down-home congeniality lowered their guard and dulled their critical instincts. Their film ends with Pelosi’s observation: “It’s funny if you think about it. We all got some good laughs at his expense. But in the end, who are we? He’s the 43rd President of the United States.”

Bill Sammon’s new book, Fighting Back picks up where Pelosi leaves off.  Fast-forwarding from November 2000 to September 2001, following Team Gore’s attempt to de-legitimize Bush’s Florida victory (the focus of Sammon’s previous work, At Any Cost), the Beltway focused on stem cell research, a dwindling economy, shark attacks and oft-laid, mislaid interns.  Against this backdrop, Sammon (White House correspondent for the Washington Times, whose right-wing bias was uncomfortably apparent from time to time throughout the book) examines two counterpoints to the Presidency: First, a media establishment that, in the style of Pelosi’s campaign press corps peers, sneers at the President (as exemplified by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, whose “press pool” reports drip sarcastic contempt toward “our maximum leader,” “the compassionate president”), and second a core of Democratic consultants — Bob Shrum, Stan Greenberg and James Carville — who see Bush (compared to Bill Clinton) as “over-matched — [like] where you have a strong power forward against a weak guard — and they don’t match up.”

On September 11, however, the paradigm shifts instantly. No longer can the press and the “loyal” opposition treat Bush as a lightweight — in the words of Carville (the Cajun noticeably less ragin’ at Election 2002), “Disregard everything we just said! This changes everything!” The change that Carville feared comes to instant fruition: Under threat of war, the President achieves instant legitimacy. The public rallies around Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, and Democratic opposition is subsumed to the unified war effort. The mealy-mouthed media’s criticisms (e.g., that the military warn Afghani targets of bombing raids with prefatory leaflets) earn it the sarcastic rejoinders of not only Rumsfeld but also the writers of “Saturday Night Live.” At a time when the President’s stature is secure, the media and the Left are utterly neutralized. Dems defer to Bush’s decisions; press pool reports speak in reverential prose.

Those who chronicle the presidency often focus on a moment in time at which a candidate, aware of his imminent ascendancy to the presidency, experiences a noticeable shift in demeanor and temperament — the moment a man becomes The Man. This theme owned the early parts of George Stephanopolous’ Clinton memoir, “All Too Human,” as well as myriad other Presidential retrospectives. The theme also arises in the latter portion of Pelosi’s film. Sammon drills the President on this, and Bush admits that he has grown in his perception of the role of a president. But for as much as Pelosi and Sammon consider this question, their end product leaves one to wonder if, perhaps, what they see as the President’s growth and maturity is in fact less a change in the President and more a change in the press: Bush didn’t grow into the presidency so much as the press grew to accept Bush as president.

In times of economic prosperity and international tranquility, the thought that the president could unilaterally label our enemies “evildoers” without extended internal dialogue was unthinkable. But amidst the “cloud of war,” the public needed a leader who could see things in black and white and act accordingly — and, at that moment, the “silly simplicity” of Dubya became the “decisive vision” of President Bush. The press arrived at the shocking realization that the President need not be a policy wonk, a Rhodes Scholar, or even (gasp!) an Ivy League lawyer. Rather, when a leader surrounds himself with trusted minds, sometimes it’s good enough for the President himself to be a bold, decisive.… American. To those aggressively pursuing Ph.D.’s in social engineering, this may be a disconcerting assertion. The Democratic Party (inside and outside of the Beltway press) spent two years hiding from that reality. But last week, the voters made sure they heard it, loud and clear.

Choose HLS, get mail-in rebate!


Just two days before my deadline, I was still unable to think of a column topic that would serve as a suitable pretext to dispel the latest prediction regarding the Ames Finals by Fenno — who appears to be a Malvoesque puppet of the Byron White Memorial Team. Fortunately, last Friday I found a flier in my HarkBox, sponsored by the Society for Law, Life & Religion’s abortion rebate program, with the following message:

“Did you know that every year, Harvard’s University Health Services uses a portion of YOUR mandatory health services fee to subsidize elective abortions? This policy is not mentioned in the glossy admissions catalogs. However, through the efforts of SLLR, you can request a rebate of that portion of your fee (and your spouse’s fee) by filling out the [included form]. Hundreds of students take advantage of this rebate every year. Please join us in once again sending a strong life-affirming message to the university.”

Was this flier a slightly tardy effort to energize the base of the Republican Party? A parody of last year’s HarkBox leafleting antics? An effort to signal that any university that would actually humor these rebate-seekers is missing more backbone than we had previously thought?

I will not venture to revisit the abortion debate. There are powerful arguments on both sides of the issue. Unlike my colleagues from the SLLR, I realized long ago that one’s position on abortion is so tied up in core value judgments that the mere regurgitation of the latest medical evidence will not persuade anyone who has thought about the issue — as just about everyone here has. And I also realize that for every flier featuring an incendiary photograph of an aborted fetus, there is a not-quite-as-incendiary but just-as-disturbing photograph of a suffering infant who just might have benefited from its mother having a bit more reproductive autonomy.

But what I will quibble with is the idea that a fundamental disagreement with a given university policy ought to exempt a student from a portion of their tuition bill. The price of living in and supporting an organized society is that you don’t get to agree with everything that it does. Even in the sterile confines of the ivory tower, the logic of this rebate program produces absurd results. Can a Christian Scientist refuse to have her tuition dollars used for any university-funded health services? Can a white supremacist decline to fund the Civil Rights Project? Can an anti-poverty advocate refuse to have his money finance anti-abortion literature?

Oh wait — death is different. After all, the flier features the words of Mother Teresa, who proclaims that “[I]t is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” An interesting choice of quotations from students who have each decided to spend $130,000 on a fancy legal education rather than donating that money to, say, feeding starving orphans — many of whom will instead die of malnutrition so that our erstwhile crusaders can pursue the careers of their choice. The decision to pursue postgraduate education rather than prevent world hunger is a splendidly ironic move from members of a student group that proclaims that “Life is a miracle …. [d]on’t use your tuition dollars to end it.”

We all make choices, more of which have an effect on human life than we would like to admit. It certainly makes life uncomfortable to acknowledge the consequences of seemingly innocuous resource allocation decisions that we all make on a daily basis. Money doesn’t buy happiness — but it does buy food, shelter and medical care — and there is only so much money to go around. This just means that every dollar spent on a DVD or a three-piece suit is a dollar not spent on these necessities. But expanding our awareness of life’s complexities — however unpleasant — is one of the reasons we devote our potentially life-saving dollars to three more years in the ivory tower. Those who still think in black and white at the end of that time should ask for even more of their money back.

RECORD Editorial: ‘Incompetent morons’ at HBS should respect free speech


The administration of Harvard Business School caused the resignation of Harbus editor Nick Will because a humor cartoon indirectly referred to Career Services employees as “incompetent morons.” Such harsh criticism— from a cartoonist, no less — of the school’s extremely unreliable online Career System was, “deeply hurtful and demoralizing” for the Career Services staff, according to HBS Senior Associate Dean Walter C. Kester.

Protestations aside, the HBS administration did not merely “informally talk” to Will about their concerns. Rather, they admit to administering a “verbal warning” that was, by Will’s account, accompanied by the threat to hold Will personally accountable for any offending content in future editions of the paper. The HBS administration went on to suggest that the paper steer clear of what Will calls “questionable issues” in the future, Will claims that administrators also urged him to use Harbus writers to bolster Career Services’ image in subsequent issues.

HBS officials have focused on “two words” — “incompetent morons” — as the source of their ire. In fact, they claim that this whole situation could have been avoided if those words were omitted.

Here at Harvard Law School, any student even marginally educated in First Amendment principles knows that statements of pure opinion — such as one’s opinion that those providing an inefficient service are “incompetent morons” — are protected speech. Moreover, anyone who has read a newspaper or magazine lately is also aware that criticism is part of the mission of most publications. Even if that criticism is hurtful, it is protected speech so long as it is not libelously inaccurate. The Harbus’ cartoon does not even come close to that line.

Harbus editors and other students need not defend themselves by claiming the statement was directed at a computer program and not at human beings. The Harbus has an absolute right, as an independent newspaper, to express any opinion that it chooses about anybody — especially public figures on campus — in virtually any language it sees fit.

Business School officials claim that Will and The Harbus violated the school’s “Community Standards.” But these guidelines are totally unclear, establishing no boundary of acceptable conduct. And if they are meant to serve as a de facto speech code — as HBS tried to use them here — they are a disgraceful affront to the concept of academic freedom, and should be eliminated. They certainly should not be wielded against an independent student newspaper.

Universities have a peculiar habit of supporting academic freedom and free speech when it serves interests such as promoting the subversive and radical activities of professors they support. They trumpet the marketplace of ideas until they themselves are subjected to criticism in that market. They recoil at the prospect of supporting speech outside the ambit of their own ideological predilections. American universities were once havens of open discourse. Today, The Harbus incident reinforces the unfortunate truth: that speech within universities today is more restricted than in almost any sphere of American society.

The HBS administration’s action proved that, at least theoretically, it is capable of restricting campus discourse. But no amount of “Community Standards,” speech codes or veiled threats will ever make that decision right.

We are thankful that the Harvard Law School administration has been less heavy-handed in its treatment of campus speech, from recent dealings with The RECORD to support of several recent student protests. But we must not forget that the freedom of students to express themselves through independent means is not a privilege but a right, one that all universities should support.

This incident, like most examples of campus censorship, will be an embarassing one for Harvard Business School. That the HBS administration has shown itself willing to chill student criticism of campus institutions, wielding milquetoast “Community Standards” as its weapon, suggests that its ranks include more “incompetent morons” than even the “Career Dink” cartoon suggested.

The West’s suicidal tendencies


Over one year after the September 11 attacks, it may be possible to actually reflect on this cataclysmic assault. In this very provisional contribution to an ongoing inquiry, I wish to show that with its response to the attacks, the Western world seems to threaten the survival of mankind in a new way, in addition to the destruction of the environment and war.

The atomization of Western society and the mechanization of human life have given individuals — now emancipated from social control and projected out of their original social contexts — the means to destroy human life, possibly on a broader scale than on September 11, with the help of nuclear power, biological, chemical and genetic weapons.

I would claim that the perpetrators of the attacks are themselves representatives of our civilization and its two main features: individualism and technology. The attacks thus reflect suicidal tendencies of capitalist society.

On the surface, the perpetrators do not seem to belong to “our” society, because they claim to follow a version of Islam and to be part of a community inspired by that faith. But what I consider decisive for qualifying human beings and their lives as individualistic is their material, rather than spiritual, practices. Western society’s individualism stems not from differences in faith and philosophy, but because contemporary people are increasingly deprived of quasi-organic bonds with the natural and human environment — through family, village or tribe — that characterize traditional societies. Instead, in our increasingly atomized society, humans rely on each other less and less; everyone is supposed to obtain her own living.

Similarly, I do not assume that the terrorists were non-individualistic, just because they said they were and because they opposed the Western way of life. If we examine some of those presumably responsible for the attacks, we find (according to the information available) that they were living in a completely unnoticeable way in industrialized countries like Germany and studying at Western universities. Even if their perfect integration is a result of their ambition to hide aggressive intentions, succeeding in such concealment entailed a high degree of self-mastery — the very quality that epitomizes capitalist individuals.

Moreover, the terrorists used modern technologies: airplanes filled with jet fuel as weapons, skyscrapers as targets and mathematical formulae determining the point on the buildings, 20 percent from the top, to maximize destruction. Their preparation for the attacks — traveling, taking flight lessons, studying plane routes, airport security and sky control and coordinating themselves — required the setting of goals, long-term thinking, strategic planning, self-discipline and other features of what Max Horkheimer called instrumental reason, which defines, along with other aspects, the modern subject.

Instrumental reason doesn’t leave much place for feelings like sorrow, fear, rage and shame. Instead, it rationalizes and represses feelings, like hatred, which may have motivated the perpetrators. As psychoanalytic theory shows, the rationalization and repression of emotions is one of the characteristic aspects of Western civilization.

Nothing distinguishes the perpetrators’ way of behavior from what Western military commanders, secret agents, political leaders and others do — except their faith. But this specific motivation does not alter the individualistic and technological character of their behavior. It is merely a particular way of searching for, expressing and justifying power, since claiming one’s religious faith in public implies the desire to make other people adopt it.

John Le Carré has described Osama bin Laden as “a man of homoerotic narcissism”; “he radiates with every self-adoring gesture an actor’s awareness of the lens,” displaying “his barely containable male vanity, his appetite for self-drama and his closet passion for the limelight.” Narcissism is perhaps another feature of capitalist society: The isolated individual may need public recognition in order to compensate for the loss of the aforementioned quasi-organic relationships.

For all these reasons, the perpetrators were part of our Western societies, in the sense that they were their products and that they behaved like us. I agree with Indian writer Arundhati Roy: bin Laden is indeed “the American president’s dark Doppelgänger.”

Using a very provisional analogy, some currents of Islamist fundamentalism may be understood as a sort of fascism, with respect to their objectives, means and recruitment. Their goals could be, as in fascism, the industrial modernization of society, control and domination of women and elimination of criticism. Their tools may comprise, a superficial communitarian stance against capitalism and the liberal nation-state, designed to conceal increased exploitation of workers and women. Recruitment is based on a profound feeling of humiliation — such as by Western society today — and consists of attracting well-educated elites frustrated with traditional politics.

Now fascism, I would claim, is not the opposite, but rather the continuation and modernization of capitalism and individualism under extreme circumstances. Fascism is the brutalized but superficial revolt of the atomized masses against their existential loneliness.

U.S. intelligence agencies received several advance warnings of the terrorist attacks. Some elements in the Bush administration may have even facilitated the activities of the hijackers in order to obtain a suitable pretext for American military intervention in the Middle East. Confirmed, these allegations would reinforce a shocking complicity between the perpetrators and factions in the Bush administration. However, I am not a friend of a conspiratory perspective. That is why thorough investigations are urgent.

Pollmann is a visiting fellow at Harvard Law School

The ‘moral hazard’ of Israel subsidies


In recent editorials such as Alex Gordon’s Nov. 7 piece in The RECORD, the divestment campaign has been characterized as anti-Semitic, imperialistic and now “intellectually lazy.” The ad hominem flows so freely that perhaps the best starting point for debate is where Gordon and I agree: “Israeli settlers who intimidate and beat people…are not entitled to their criminal behavior.” We diverge over whether U.S. taxpayers and Harvard must continue to subsidize this criminal behavior, to the tune of over $3 billion a year in official aid and unknown millions in private aid.

While it is facile to claim that divestment singles out Israel and should include Palestinian and other violators as well, the fact is that Israel controls access to U.S. official aid to the Palestinian Authority, just as Israel controls access to official offices of the PA. When Egypt incarcerated a human rights activist on trumped-up charges last year, President Bush responded by denying further aid. When China slaughtered thousands in Tiananmen Square, the U.S. responded by at least raising the possibility of denying most-favored nation trade status. Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Iran are already under strict sanctions. Only Israel is immune to any official U.S. criticism.

This has not always been the case. President George H.W. Bush temporarily denied loans to Israel in 1991 without a guarantee that the money would not fund settlements in the occupied territories. He was also branded anti-Semitic by Israeli cabinet members, and aid to Israel has remained unquestioned by any major U.S. official ever since.

It is odd that subsidies to American minorities, farmers and manufacturers can be challenged, but not subsidies to Israel. In these other cases, the fear of moral hazard is a recurring thread. In the case of Israel, the issue never arises.

Gordon presents the most superficial answer as to why Palestinian innocents are unjustifiably killed: Israeli’s war against terrorism requires military strikes. Just as wars of repression were conducted against Native Americans because “savages” among them attacked white settlers, attacks on Palestinians are, in Gordon’s rhetoric, justified because of terrorists among them.

The U.S. government subsidized white settlers in numerous ways, including the use of military force to quell “hostiles” whenever they threatened whites. As in the case of Israel/Palestine, the vast majority of America turned a blind eye to the impact of this support, which encouraged settlers to manufacture spirals of violence that would be quelled by the army whenever the “natives were restless.” The parallels are uncanny and disturbing to anyone who has spent extended time in both reservations and refugee camps.

Ending American aid and investment in Israel will not destroy Israel, the most powerful state in the region. That is not the intent. Instead, divestment eliminates the moral hazard inherent in current U.S. policy, which promotes militants on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. In view of the blank check from the U.S., Palestinian militants have no incentive to negotiate with Israel because there is no possibility of achieving parity. Israeli militants likewise can conduct their outrages with impunity, because if the Palestinians retaliate, Israeli militants gain not only increased moral and financial support from America, but political advantages in the Israeli electorate as well.

The only time the blank check from America was even questioned, Israelis rejected a militant leader and elected Yitzhak Rabin, thus permitting a peace process that might have yielded a solution. Sadly, as Palestinians and Israelis learned that the temporary delay of 1991 was an exception, radicals on both sides worked to undermine any possible peace. By challenging U.S. subsidies to Israel, the divestment campaign seeks to restore balance, in part because Israel, unlike other regimes in the Middle East, is likely to respond to moral suasion and economic loss.

It is unacceptable that hundreds of Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, just as it is unacceptable that thousands of Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. It is equally unacceptable that American subsidies help fuel the hostilities by which both are killed. Absent the blank check from America, Israeli society will rein in their own radicals, desist with the construction of settlements, and perhaps then a real solution may emerge.

It is an odd form of anti-Semitism to respect Israelis enough to believe that they will end the occupation once outsiders refuse to provide moral and financial support to it. As in the case of South Africa, where Bishop Desmond Tutu finds parallels to Israel/Palestine that American professors overlook, once outsiders refuse to provide economic and moral support to blatant injustice, insiders can act responsibly and resolve it.

Perhaps Gordon believes that maintaining the status quo that produces the violence will ultimately lead to a peaceful resolution. One wonders if that is not itself intellectually lazy, not to mention irrational.

Editor’s Note: Gordon’s piece may be found online at: