The South end’s surprising new warehouse chic

BY RENEE KAPLAN

But for the complete absence of attitude, it could have been a Chelsea gallery opening, one of those early evening gatherings of avant-garde haircuts, art scenesters and chardonnay in New York’s West-side outpost of hip art galleries. Instead, it was a Friday in the South End. At 450 Harrison Avenue, close to the South Boston side of the South End, down a desolate, industrial-looking street of warehouses and parking lots, a red brick loft building was burbling with art chatter and the splash of jug wine in clear plastic cups. The building houses several small galleries among its many office spaces, and this past Friday evening they were all hosting openings.

Women in tight jeans and little tops clicked their way down the concrete staircase in between the galleries on the first three floors. Shaggy-haired boys with cross-chest messenger bags chatted with intellectualoid girls in conceptual skirts. And a skinny, wrinkly, over-tan German collector lady in funky John Galliano boots – evidently she was just back from Saint Barth’s and so pleased to make the openings – seemed to know all the gallery owners.

The art itself was all contemporary and eclectic. Thanks to many of the featured artists being in attendance and being introduced around by their dealers, people were actually looking at the art. Upstairs at the O_H+T Gallery, two dramatically different painters share a two-room loft space. Carolanna Parlato’s abstract acrylic paintings look like technicolor fractals on neon backgrounds. They evoke the rainbow reflection you see in gasoline puddles, strangely geometric refractions depicted in high-clash color combinations: fuschia, brown and aqua; ochre, sky blue and orange. Decorative but unsettling in their abrasive color contrasts, they feel like something organic and familiar that’s been distorted and charged with toxic color.

In the other room, Bradley Rubinstein’s three large canvases are more quiet, yet much more disturbing. In one of them, the flower at the top of a spare stem actually represents a woman’s head. It is a two-dimensional face with hollowed eyes that looks like it’s been stenciled on to the top of the stem in black paint, like some cruelly decapitated head on the tip of a spear. The image is placid and spare – dark stenciled shapes on an off-white background – but macabre, like a horrible memorial to some woman’s violent death.

Down the hall, at the Allston Skirt Gallery, Sean Foley’s paintings and wall sculptures evoke a different nightmare, more cartoonish and surreal. In his canvases, a nasty mixture of abstract and representational shapes – phallic extensions, bulging eyes, cartoon claws, gore splatters, organ-like blobs – all whirl together in a frenetic swirl of gray and black against white, like the animation stills of an X-rated Robert Crumb cartoon. The feel is fun and noir, and very art school, but the scene in the gallery itself was more interesting. Maybe it was the smaller gallery space – none of the galleries here are larger than a few average-sized rooms – but people stood elbow to plastic wine cup, with much checking out of each other through arty black-framed eyeglasses, and without a whole lot of space to view the art on the walls. Happily, Foley’s graphic works didn’t really need much more distance for viewing than the German collector’s boots – black and white and orange newsprint on suede – which seemed to be getting a lot of attention.

The show in the downstairs Bernard Toale Gallery is the most curated of the galleries’ exhibits. Called “5 Fictions,” it features five different artists in five different mediums, each exploring the idea of the portrait. The title’s unsubtle reference to fiction alludes to all the work of construction and commentary going on in what we think of as a genre typically representing reality.

In Rico Gatson’s “Klandles #3” sculpture, a dozen candles in pastel shades in the shape of Klansmen busts stand aligned on the kind of rustic-looking white wall shelf with decorative beveling and color-painted details that you might find in a country kitchen. It is sweet, domestic and fiercely ironic, a subtle portrait of hypocrisy and insidiousness. The show also includes a beautiful photograph by Jocelyn Lee of an older female nude with slightly sagging breasts and belly who, though depicted in the unmade bed of a cheap-looking motel room, looks improbably innocent and serene, as though indifferent to whatever age and circumstance might impute to her. With only five pieces, the small show is loaded with meanings about the power of portraiture.

And if that Friday was any evidence, the dozen small galleries that make up the South End’s burgeoning art scene are also proof that even Boston is loaded with meanings about the power of warehouse chic and eccentric art collectors. Such a scene, who knew?

Harbus Editor resigns over warning about cartoon

BY CLINTON DICK

1114 NEWS CareerDinksmall.jpg

Nick Will, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business School’s weekly newspaper The Harbus, resigned November 6 after an HBS administration official verbally warned him that a cartoon in the newspaper’s October 28 edition was both inappropriate and disrespectful. The ensuing controversy attracted national attention, and has raised serious concerns among students about the HBS administration’s commitment to freedom of the press and academic freedom.

The cartoon was meant to parody problems with the “HBS Career Link” system, a system similar to the Law School’s own OCS web site. The cartoon, by HBS student Matt Stovcsik, showed a computer logged on to “HBS CareerDink” with numerous pop-up announcements all over the screen, including one that read: “incompetent morons.” Those two words upset several individuals in the HBS administration, including Career Services Director Matt Merrick, who felt that the statement was directed at him.

According to Will’s resignation letter, Steve Nelson, MBA Program Director, called him into his office on November 4 after receiving complaints from Merrick. The Harvard Crimson reported Monday that the November 4 meeting was called after HBS Dean Kim Clark, Senior Associate Dean Walter Kester, Merrick and Nelson met to discuss the issue.

“Steve Nelson on behalf of himself and both Deans [Kester and Clark],” Will wrote, “issued me a ‘verbal warning,’ what he said was the first ‘localized’ step in the HBS Community Standards sanctioning process.”

“[Nelson] warned me,” Will continued in his letter, “that I would be held personally accountable as a student for all content in The Harbus and could be called in for further action in the future… should he or someone else in the administration disagree with my editorial judgment.”

Will also alleged that Nelson urged him to burnish Career Services’ image with coverage in future issues.

The HBS Community Standards provide that an environment that encourages “mutual respect, free expression and inquiry, and a commitment to truth and lifelong learning” is essential in developing “outstanding business leaders who contribute to the well-being of society.”

Jim Aisner, Director of Media Relations for HBS, said he is not convinced that Nelson was pushing Will to only report good things about Career Services.

Aisner maintains that MBA Program Director Nelson was only pointing out to Will that broader coverage of Career Services may have been warranted: “What I think Steve was trying to say was that there are a lot of things going on in Career Services and hopefully the newspaper would focus on more across-the-board coverage.”

As for the verbal reprimand, Aisner says, “We all live in a community and as part of a community we all should have respect for one another. The feeling was that this cartoon, if it was directed at members of HBS, did not show proper respect.”

Aisner also stressed that while HBS faculty and administrators are supporters of free speech, members of the newspaper staff are still bound to respect University standards. “These reporters are students and there are guidelines that they need to abide by and one of those is the issue of respect,” he said.

Nelson echoed similar feelings in a statement to The Harbus: “Each student at HBS, regardless of his or her other commitments or responsibilities, remains a student, and as such is bound by the Community Standards that define who we are.” Nelson went on to say that he was disappointed Will had decided to step down as editor. However, he failed to clarify how The Harbus cartoon violated the Community Standards in question.

Will’s letter also raised concerns about the Business School’s use of the Community Standards process, questioning why administration officials contacted him directly with their problems instead of going through The Harbus News Corporation Board of Directors and Chairperson.

“The important element,” Will wrote, “is that the HBS administration relate to The Harbus as a mature institution, not through personal intimidation and threats to those who participate in The Harbus.”

Jen Taylor, an HBS student and representative to the Community Standards Board, said she agrees that standard procedures were not followed.

“It caught the community standard representatives by surprise,” Taylor admits. “There is an established process in place to address these issues, and this incident went outside the normal standard. There are officials in the administration whose job it is to review community standard procedures, and my understanding is that such individuals were not even alerted that this was going on.”

Taylor added that the board had little guidance as to how the cartoon might have constituted a Community Standards violation. “The problem is that there is very little case law that can guide us in determining what constitutes standard violations,” she said. In the past, Taylor says that community standard violations included physical threats made to other students or plagiarism.

In a statement reported in the Boston Globe, Kester made it clear that students must learn to respect others, both while they are at the Business School and when they enter the work force: “Our students are going to be leading organizations and people someday, and they need to learn from time to time about how their words and actions might influence others.”

In his statements to The Harvard Crimson, Kester claimed that had the cartoon mocked only the computer system, rather than Career Services employees, no action would have been taken. “We concluded that the phrase ‘incompetent morons’ was deeply hurtful and demoralizing for the career services staff,” he said.

Kester characterized the meeting with Will as a “casual conversation” rather than a formative step in a longer disciplinary process, and argued that the Administration was not trying to chill freedom of speech. “We all agreed to say nothing that could be construed as intervening with the content of the paper, or the content of articles regarding Career Services…. We wanted to narrowly focus our message on the impact of those two words.”

Speaking to The RECORD, Will made it clear that as editor, he made a judgment call that the phrase “incompetent morons” did not violate Community Standards.

“I would not have allowed the two words if they would have made reference to a particular entity,” he said. “I had agreed that I would abide by all legal and community standard guidelines. The cartoon had a disembodied phrase that did not make reference to any particular entity and I made a ‘community standard’ judgment that it did not violate those rules.”

Will went on to say that even if the cartoon had violated Community Standards, it still would have withstood a First Amendment claim. When asked why he thought the administration focused on the two words, Will said, “I think over the past year I have and others have worked hard to create a paper that is truly a platform for the exchange of free ideas. And in that has been a fair amount of criticism and a fair amount of progressive content. I do not know why they seized on this and why they circumvented normal community standards procedures. It is baffling why the three most senior officials in HBS convened a meeting to focus on those two words.”

Will said he hopes the new editor can collaborate with the administration to devise a better way to handle similar situations in the future, including formal procedures whereby the administration can register its complaints. “The administr
ation needs to respect the independent governing body of the Harbus News Corporation,” Will said.

On Friday, HBS Dean Clark sent a letter to the HBS community expressing regret that Will had decided to resign. He reinforced the school’s commitment to principles of free expression, but also maintained that students have other duties they must also perform.

“[E]ach of us first and foremost is a member of the Harvard Business School community,” Clark wrote, “and as such, we are expected to treat each other respectfully. Referring to members of our community as ‘incompetent morons’ does not fall within the realm of respectful discourse.”

According to Tuesday’s edition of The Harbus, Derek Mendez, the current sports editor, will take over the paper as acting editor-in-chief.

A Wednesday editorial in the Boston Globe blasted the HBS administration for not respecting the right of student newspapers to criticize faculty and staff: “If some HBS-educated corporate director had aimed that charge at the right executive of Enron or Global Crossing at the right time, many thousand [sic] workers and shareholders might be better off today.” The editorial contended that administrators should have responded to the cartoon through the open forum of the newspaper.

In response to the uproar, HBS’ Clark invited students to attend an open forum on November 25 to discuss student issues and criticisms.

The Harbus was incorporated in 1980 as a not-for-profit business. It has its own board of directors and charter, and it operates rent-free in the space it occupies on campus.

Global scrutiny of Camp X-Ray misplaced

BY JONATHAN GOTTFRIED

The Defense Department’s photograph of Camp X-Ray detainees, shackled and kneeling, has provoked a glut of editorials and speculation around the globe. Leading the hyperbole was the U.K. description of Guantanamo as “a scandal of international proportions. Brutalised, often tortured, these are men who have been stripped of their most basic rights.” Terry Waite has likened the treatment of Al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees to his experience as a hostage in Beirut, which involved being chained to a wall and beaten on the soles of his feet with a cable. Finally, the Pakistani Dawn, after oddly describing Cuba as “a remote Atlantic island,” warned Americans that the “world’s most advanced democracy will, by compromising on justice for the prisoners, have succumbed to the base instincts usually displayed by its enemies.”

In this fury of recriminations, fact and fiction have parted ways. Not only have observers from the Red Cross and the United Kingdom found the detainees’ accommodations and treatment to be fair, but an article in The New York Times (not usually partial to the U.S. government’s behavior at Guantanamo) on February 4 described the eye surgery of a 21-year-old detainee who has suffered from glaucoma since he was 16. The BBC’s Alistair Cooke has described the 161 surgeons, doctors, paramedics and nurses who care for the, at present, 158 detainees. This is not to mention the snacks, candy bars and hot meals prepared in accordance with Muslim dietary restrictions.

Perhaps the Observer was confusing Camp X-Ray with its own country’s former prisons in Northern Ireland or the current, reported mistreatment of suspected Islamic militants at Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London? And the Dawn may have mistaken Guantanamo for its own detention centers, filled with the targets of Musharraf’s crackdown on militants. I’m guessing that candy bars aren’t on those militants’ menus and “appeals” have a whole different meaning over there.

What strikes me about these screeds is how much ink and paper is wasted on this issue when crimes of far more staggering dimensions are omnipresent. When the Observer writes of “men who have been stripped of their most basic rights,” why isn’t it referring to “President” Mugabe’s expropriation of land from families on the basis of race and his efforts to thwart the upcoming democratic elections? Or how about Saudi Arabia’s execution – performed near January 1 to ring in the New Year – of three men for being homosexuals? For a “scandal of international proportions,” how about Saddam Hussein’s use of gas chambers in his “prison clean-up campaign”? Or the 3,000 Taliban prisoners in a city near Mazar-e-Sharif who are being kept in an Afghan-run facility built to hold 200 prisoners?

To the long and tiresome litany of lessons that we have learned from 9/11, add this: America’s and the world’s OCD-driven focus on our country’s misdemeanors in light of more serious human rights violations abroad is characteristic of our self-absorption and foreign, overfamiliar spit-on-America (“because we hold you to such high standards”) rhetoric.

There are those who will argue that the debate surrounding the Geneva Convention is significant because it is yet one more example of American unilateralism. That word has become a foreign policy insult that is, in and of itself, meaningless. Since when has the majority had a monopoly on morality? Nor is a principle any more valid because it has two adherents instead of one. Cries that America is going it alone and vague references to the Geneva Convention dodge the issues.

If ever there were a case where the spirit of the law trumped the letter, this debate over the Geneva Convention is it. The Convention was drafted for international armed conflict involving fights between nation-states. It never pretended to be a code for all wars. It does not, for example, cover civil wars, insurgent guerrilla terrorist factions (note that Britain never designated IRA bombers POWs), or wars between states that subscribe to the Geneva Convention and those that do not. Nor does it cover Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Al-Qaeda is disqualified for any number of reasons: because its soldiers did not wear a fixed distinctive sign visible at a distance (although I’ve got to admit, that requirement seems a little strange to me); because they did not carry their arms openly (preferring shoes); and because their targeting of civilians does not accord with the seemingly oxymoronic “laws and customs of war.” And the Taliban no more qualify under the Convention than do members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. The Taliban’s representative did not sit in Kabul’s seat at the U.N.; its “government” was not the recognized government of Afghanistan; and the Taliban – with its child-“generals” and tribal marauders – could hardly be considered as having a regular army.

The Convention, dating back to prehistoric 1949, simply does not contemplate the current state of affairs. Professor Wedgwood at Yale Law School has pointed out that, under the Convention, POWs cannot be confined in cells and must be guaranteed utensils including “razors, combs (and) nail scissors,” as well as “needles” and “pen-knives.” An Al-Qaeda suspect at the Metropolitan Correction Center recently stabbed the eye of warden with a sharpened comb, and it has been reported that Camp X-Ray detainees have told the guards that they will kill an American before they leave the camp. How about we agree to classify the detainees as POWs if the rest of the world agrees to run the camp? That way, the English can ensure that their home-grown terrorists are being treated according to their own sterling standards. We’ll supervise them with a copy of the Geneva Convention, while we watch from a distance … from a very far distance. In the reactions of many to Guantanamo, the moral outrage has far outstripped any crime that the U.S. may have possibly committeed.

GNR

BY

It’s becoming a February tradition: Sometime in late January or early February, 2Ls and 3Ls run home and rip open their white envelopes from the Registrar’s Office to stare, befuddled, at a row of GNRs [Grade Not Reported]. It’s even becoming a kind of HLS lingo: “I got GNR’d.” Last year, some students did not receive their grades until April.

In the meantime, 1Ls await the Law School’s first evaluations of their performance with bated breath, in many cases with jobs and their sanity hanging in the balance. Well, they’d better keep waiting, because most will be waiting until at least the end of February – well over a month after they took their exams.

The fundamental issue is one of respect: Students are expected to take their exams on time (the Registrar claims it will not accept take-homes even a minute late), and few – if any – excuses for tardiness are tolerated. The system works that way to be fair, and it largely is. But fairness cuts both ways, and professors should give their students the courtesy of reporting their grades promptly.

For 2Ls and 3Ls, not receiving their grades is a nuisance and an affront to their hard work. Moreover, it can delay applications for fellowships and certain joint programs. Professors who turn in grades past the Registrar’s deadline also do the administration a disservice by creating the needless and tedious extra work of re-issuing grade reports.

For 1Ls, such delays in receiving grades can cause a different kind of stress. With the hiring market tighter than ever, firms are increasingly looking to first-semester grades in their hiring decisions. One-Ls interested in obtaining a law firm jobs often feel pressured to get started on job applications before winter break. Students who do not receive grades until the end of February may fear they are at a disadvantage to students from other schools – many of whom have completed their exams prior to winter break and have demonstrable records of their performance. And students, considering whether to wait to hear from employers in January or wait to sign up for on-campus interviewing, are likely to pick the path that seems less risky – nailing down the first job that comes along instead of waiting to consider those firms that require grade reports.

Students voted overwhelmingly last year for grade reform. It is no secret that grades continue to be an extremely contentious issue, representing one HLS practice that is out of step with student interest and some of its peer institutions, and arguably inimical to the quality of legal education. The faculty ought to reconsider genuine grade reform, but if it refuses to do so, it should at least take the process as seriously as it expects students to take it.

If HLS feels that grading its large population of students is valuable to their legal education, it should evaluate them fairly, quickly and adequately.

Huang at helm of Review

BY MEREDITH MCKEE

Bert Huang will follow in the footsteps of Judge Henry Friendly and Dean Erwin Nathaniel Griswold through the next year by guiding the Harvard Law Review as its next president. Huang emerged victorious as the 116th Law Review president after an election Saturday.

“I was honored and humbled,” Huang said. “It’s a terrific thing to know others have confidence in you, are willing to trust you with responsibility.”

Huang said that honor was particularly meaningful since the Law Review is a “challenging” group with very “talented and intelligent” members.

Huang will lead the Review with the help of newly elected Treasurer Allison Tirres and Managing Editor Garrett Moritz.

If past experiences of Law Review presidents are any hint, Huang can expect to earn his honor. Presidents are generally responsible for the quality of all pieces published, for organizational administration of the Review, for publishing the Review and dealing with the outside world. Over his term, outgoing President Matt Hellman estimated that he has worked “well over 100 hours a week.”

“It’s a wonderful job, an absolutely amazing experience, although obviously it’s a real time commitment,” he said. “I wouldn’t pass it up for the world.”

Over his term, Huang said, he will work to implement the initiatives his Law Review class has voted to support.

“I think our class is focused on the community we are building between ourselves,” he said. “We are concerned about our place in the community, in the law school, in the legal field.”

That concern about the Law Review’s place in the community became particularly relevant recently as the organization debated whether to adopt an affirmative action policy for female applicants. The proposal, which was rejected in a vote last week, would have made gender a consideration in the selection process for a limited number of spots on the Review.

Huang declined to express an opinion on the merits of the proposal, saying instead, “[W]hat’s important is what this group of editors as a whole have decided about the issue.”

Huang continued: “It’s an incredibly important discussion to have – not an easy discussion to have. Because of that, it brought out the reflection important to a self-governing organization like ours about what it means to be a member.”

Though that discussion was at times contentious, Huang said it was beneficial for the organization.

“I think it only speaks well of the thoughtfulness of the membership that we were able to talk frankly and openly about the proposal,” he said. “Keeping in mind that the eyes are on us – that we are making concrete in our lives something that we have studied in the abstract, but is an important decision about how we view ourselves as a community and as a functioning institution.”

Huang will face a steep learning curve as he takes over the Review, Hellman said.

“Looking back, one of the difficulties of the job is that you do it for a year and then you’re done, so the first six month you’re learning the ropes,” he said. “And then the second six months you’re relying only on that vast experience, so you always could have done better.”

Despite those difficulties, Hellman said he is happy with his experience.

“Mostly I’m proud about the quality of the pieces we’ve published this year – it’s really been a banner year, even according to our standards,” he said.

More importantly, Hellman said, the editors have gotten something more personal out of the experience.

“I think the editors as a whole have had a good time,” he said.

The Law Review also contributes to the Law School community through the activities of its members, he said, since almost all of its editors participate in other student groups.

“It doesn’t have to take over your whole life,” Huang said. “We have a lot of editors who maintain a great balance.”

Hellman, citing Law Review representation in the Parody, singing groups, and other organizations, agreed: “Although the president doesn’t usually have time to take on significant outside activities, the editors usually do.”

Looking to the future Huang said that the 2Ls on Law Review are particularly interested in using the Review’s status as a locus of academic scholarship and its contacts throughout the academic world to bring opportunities to the Law School.

Another goal for the coming year, Huang said, will be to draw from the Law School community in as many areas as possible for membership.

“The value of diversity has hit home this year,” he said.

HLS considers full-time OPIA advisor

BY MIKE WISER

The Administration is “seriously considering” a faculty recommendation of hiring an additional full-time staff member to the Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA), said Michael Armini, director of Commun-ications for the Law School. Whether the recommendation will ultimately be adopted is uncertain, and the proposal comes at a time when a sagging economy and changes to the first-year program have put strains on the budget.

A faculty resolution passed in January called on Dean Clark to “immediately” provide incr-eased staff support and an additional full-time counselor. The resolution, which passed 33 to 1, came a half-year after the dean rejected a similar request from OPIA.

Students and faculty who support the hiring of an additional advisor argue that the current staff is swamped by its duties and is unable to meet student demand for its services. A memo to the faculty authored by five students in favor of the resolution argued that students have sometimes had to wait five weeks for an appointment with Alexa Shabecoff, OPIA’s only full-time advisor and the director of OPIA. The students claimed that the weight of holding 700 to 900 individual appointments a year, compiling 24 publications and organizing scores of events is too much for Shabecoff.

While Shabecoff is the school’s only full-time public interest advisor, she also oversees an array of part-time advisors, undergraduate interns and a support staff of one. Some argue that, with an average of five to six part-time attorney advisors, Shabecoff is hardly alone. But she argues that there is a world of difference between the part-time advisors and a dedicated full-time employee.

While Shabecoff refers to the part-time advisors as “exceptionally smart, talented people,” she said that the part-time nature of their job creates problems.

“We had a couple of people who had to cancel their appointments in the midst of our busiest season, because their other jobs made them have to cancel,” Shabecoff said.

She also said that part-time advisors also don’t have time to learn about what is going on around the office or to fully develop their skills as career advisors.

All of this adds up to a strained OPIA staff and long waitlists for students seeking advice. Shabecoff said that students were polite about the wait to see an advisor, but were sometimes stressed that the delay could hurt their job prospects.

“People are very nice to our office,” she said. “Almost everybody is polite about it, if not mellow about it.”

Part of the push for a second OPIA staff member came from a group of 3Ls who wrote a memo to the faculty supporting the motion. Virginia Davis, one of the members of that group, said that the students were moved to action by the effect OPIA’s current staffing had on students.

“In my role as the president of the Student Public Interest Network [SPIN], I was hearing from many students about their frustration with the delay in getting an appointment at OPIA,” she said. “I was also hearing concerns from many prospective students about the resources at HLS compared to other schools. The SPIN board decided to look into the issue of OPIA resources and quickly determined that there is overwhelming student satisfaction with the services that are provided at OPIA and yet a desperate need for additional staff.”

Andrew Michaelson joined the group of student campaigners after experiencing the long wait to get an appointment at OPIA.

“I waited two months for my appointment with Alexa,” Michaelson said. “HLS students face waits of less than one week to meet with advisors at OCS. Students at NYU face waits of less than one week to meet with their public interest advisors.”

Michaelson also said that he worried about what would happen if Shabecoff left Harvard. “If Alexa were ever to leave OPIA, she would take with her an impressive and valuable list of contacts that she has developed with HLS alumni working in all corners of the legal market,” he said. “HLS needs a second career counselor at OPIA to preserve institutional memory.”

Michaelson, Davis and Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, who sponsored the faculty resolution, argued that an understaffed OPIA office hurts the reputation of the Law School.

“Other leading law schools, for which we once served as a leader in this realm, now put us to shame with their much more adequately staffed public interest offices,” Bartholet wrote in a January 4th memo to the faculty.

The campaign for a second full time OPIA staff member is not new. Supporters of the faculty resolution point to both a 1990 Public Interest Advisory Committee and a 1996 Ad Hoc Public Interest Committee, both of which recommended a larger staff at OPIA.

As recently as last year, Shabecoff submitted a formal request to the dean for an additional staff member. While her request was turned down over the summer, Shabecoff said that she subsequently met with Dean Robert Clark in November.

“He was very receptive at that point,” she said of the meeting.

In December the student supporters of an additional staff member also met with Clark. Davis described it as “a very positive and productive meeting.”

The school’s budgeting office and the dean will decide whether the resolution will be acted on.

Armini said that through the resolution the faculty “was able to provide a very clear message.” Still, he stressed that a decision on whether to add an additional staff member had not been made and that there are a number of proposals competing for funding. The economy and slumping stock market have also put pressure on the school to reign in spending.

“It is a year where there might be some belt tightening. Part of the reason is that the school has embarked on a lot of changes to the first-year program,” Armini said.

Even if an additional OPIA position is created, supporters argue that it is just one step in a larger process of improving the school’s commitment to public interest. As part of the resolution calling for an expansion of the OPIA office, the faculty also called on the dean to create a committee to design a plan to develop an office to implement the mandatory pro bono program that was included in last year’s Strategic Plan.

Speaker call for rule of law in Middle East conflict

BY DONOVAN RINKER-MORRIS

Reading from his book “Strangers in the House: Coming of Age in Occupied Palestine” before an audience of about 120 at the law school on Monday, Raja Shehadeh described the experience of watching Israeli bulldozers ravage ancient vineyards while establishing a settlement in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Shehadeh argued that calls for upholding the rule of law and international condemnation of the Israeli practice of building settlements at gunpoint would eventually halt the practice.

While directing Al-Haq, which means “justice” in Arabic, Shehadeh produced voluminous documentation of the confiscation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, systematic torture in Israeli prisons and other human rights violations perpetrated by the occupying authorities.

Watching in the audience was Eitan Fellner, a leader of B’Tselem, an Israeli organization working on civil and political rights in the Occupied. During the discussion, Fellner asked Shehadeh whether the negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis reflected a basic tension be-tween justice and peace. Shehadeh replied that the Oslo process was a “false hope” since it left resolving the status of the settlements to the final stage of negotiations. Shehadeh’s skepticism was borne out when the final offer of statehood made at Camp David, which would have left the settlements substantially intact, was rejected by Arafat. Shehadeh said establishing permanent armed encampments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would divide the proposed Palestinian state into cantons requiring permanent roads for Israeli settlers, the presence of soldiers and checkpoints to protect the settlers, and inequ-itable allocation of water resources. Acc-ording to Shehadeh, the failure to correct a clear injustice ensured the failure of any neg-otiated peace settlement, although he conceded that negotiations required some political compromises by all participants.

Shehadeh voiced discomfort with the PLO and the Palestinian Authority as representatives of the Palestinian people. While considerable work was conducted during the interim period between the Oslo Accords and the current Intifada to prepare Palestinians for exercising democracy, Shehadeh noted the ambivalence towards human rights on the part of the political negotiators. However, Shehadeh said that training a society to be governed by the rule of law is difficult when clear violations are readily apparent, like the dramatic increase in the size of Israeli settlements post-Oslo despite the agreement that nothing would alter the facts on the ground.

Discussing recent developments, Shehadeh argued that every government has a right to protect its citizens, but the matter is somewhat more complicated when those citizens are living illegally on another person’s territory. Shehadeh said he remains confident, however, that at the end of the day, there will have to be two states. He also contended he was surprised how quickly negotiations resumed after the 1987-93 Intifada, and how he sees the two sides as so entangled that some third party is necessary to resolve the dispute.

Advocating for justice

BY JONAS BLANK

A legal education – especially a gold-plated Harvard one – is often described in instrumental terms, as a “ticket to success.” Even mid-recession, a high-paying law firm job is considered a virtual sinecure, almost a right more than a prize. But for people who believe that law school presents an opportunity to right wrongs, to advance ideologies and to alter prevailing paradigms, taking that prize means a painful choice between pay and principles. Law firms – at least those in the OCS database – tend to be ideologically agnostic, turning profits through the routine representation of corporate clients. Whether the client is Enron, Radio Shack or R.J. Reynolds is irrelevant.

As 2Ls going through the OCS recruitment process, Clare Connors and Danny Grooms weren’t satisfied with that state of affairs.

“Every firm we were looking at practiced on a specific side of each issue,” said Grooms. “And on every issue it came down to, I would have wanted to be on the opposite side. There was nothing OCS was doing to present options on both sides of the ‘v.'”

On the less-glamorous side of the “v” are plaintiff’s firms, many of which are finally large and profitable enough to participate in more routine hiring. Lawyers that gravitate to them tend to actually care about whom their clients are and what their injuries have been, with a goal of putting people, not profit, first. Realizing that neither OPIA nor OCS was doing an adequate job of informing students about “private public-interest” firms, Grooms and Connors, both students in Prof. Jon Hanson’s Corporations class, decided to do something to put such firms on the map. Like Hanson, they also wanted to help erase the misguided popular perception of plaintiff’s lawyers as conniving bottom-feeders and portray their work more positively.

Together with Hanson and a handful of other students, they decided to found Punctilio, Inc., a wholly student-owned and operated corporation, of which Grooms and Connors are co-CEOs and Hanson is honorary chairman of the board. The name is derived from Justice Cardozo’s famous quote about the fiduciary duty of corporations: “Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is then the standard of behavior ….” he said, “Only thus has the level of conduct for fiduciaries been kept at a level higher than that trodden by the crowd.”

The current staff also includes 3L Josh Blank, its treasurer and accountant, 3L Eric Zacks, who serves as legal counsel, and Tim Cullen, a Boston College law student, who serves as its webmaster. With the help of lawyers from Fried Frank and bankers from Goldman Sachs, the students put together a formal IPO and launched Punctilio, Inc. at the beginning of this year.

Punctilio’s main product is its web site, justadvocates.com, which allows students to find firms that deal with issues such as employment, gay/lesbian rights, personal injury, women’s rights, voting rights, police misconduct and tobacco litigation. Although Connors stresses that Punctilio does not represent any single specific ideology, the corporation’s principal criteria for firms is that “these firms actually care about what clients they have and the point they’re arguing for.” The name’s double entendre reflects Connors’ and Grooms’ ideal: Lawyers should not just be advocates for anything, but ought to be just advocates – fighting for positions and people they believe in.

To that end, the web site offers a discussion forum as well as legal news and links to public interest legal organizations. Grooms and Connors hope to refine the site further in the coming months to allow students to upload resumes and profiles that could be searchable by firms, who would pay a small fee to view the information.

Punctilio’s other primary business is its on-campus forums. Panels such as “Making Career Choices Without Losing Sight of Your Values,” one of two Punctilio has helped sponsor at HLS, have brought plaintiff’s lawyers from firms like Lieff Cabraser together with professors to help students become more aware of their options. And it’s working.

“I have al-ways known that I would work for a public interest firm, but didn’t even know that there were such things as a private public-interest firms that derived most of their revenue from their clients,” said Laura Gundersheim, a 1L who discovered justadvocates.com thr-ough Han-son’s torts class and one of Punc-tilio’s panels. “Many non-profits are not receiving the funding they need to do the type of work that I am interested in, so I decided I would try a private-public interest firm this summer and see if I liked it.”

She ultimately found a job with Milberg Weiss, one of the largest private public-interest firms. Milberg offers compensation, support staff and training similar to large defense firms – and firms like it, while still relatively rare, are increasingly common.

“You’re making good money [with such firms],” said Grooms, who points out that of the top ten highest-paid lawyers in the country, all are plaintiff’s lawyers. “And you can feel good about it. There need to be good lawyers on both sides.”

But finding a summer private public-interest job – especially one that pays – is still not easy.

“These people are looking for people interested in the specific work they’re doing,” said Grooms. “Defense firms are very well-funded, and they have repeat business from their corporate clients. Plaintiff’s firms don’t have that. Most plaintiffs are not repeat players.”

Because plaintiff’s firms don’t tend to have such steady income – and seek associates who care about the specific ideological stances they take – their hiring can be both more selective and unpredictable, making it impossible for them to go through formalized on-campus interviewing like that provided by Career Services. Many are also unable to pay their summer associates. Still, Grooms notes, “a lot of opportunities are going overlooked.”

“I think justadvocates.com is filling a very good niche,” said Career Services Director Mark Weber. “Private public-interest firms often tend to fall between the cracks between the private sector and the public sector.”

Although such firms do make profits and pay larger salaries, Weber notes, they tend to look more like public interest organizations, which are typically smaller in size and have concurrently lower turnover rates and less predictable needs every year. Even among large private public-interest firms like Milberg, lower turnover rates and volatile profit patterns make hiring a more selective and difficult process.

Although Weber does not plan to create an on-campus interviewing process for plaintiff-side firms, he does hope to add plaintiff’s firms and other small firms to OCS’ planned on-line database next year. Although that would still not make small firms as accessible as those that arrive for OCI every year, it would at least make such firms as easy to search for as their larger counterparts. And while its listings are less extensive and organized than those on justadvocates, OPIA also provides resources for finding private public-interest firms. The office was instrumental in helping Punctilio to bolster its listings during its startup, and has also helped co-sponsor its panels.

But along with Punctilio’s plans for expansion, the company also has a more pressing concern. Grooms, Connors and their associates are all graduating this year, and they need students to take over the company.

“We want to keep it student-run,” Grooms said. “Clare and I plan to continue with it, but we would also like to have Harvard people involved, especially to run the panels.”

The pay may not be the best – Grooms and Connors have yet to make a dime on the operation, which currently derives all its revenue from advertising and puts all profits back into operations – but the experience, both agree, is more than worth it.

“It has definitely kept us busy,” Connors said. “But it’s a pretty fun thing to be able to say you’re CEO of a corporation.”

Probably doesn’t look bad on a resume, e
ither.

Controversial O’Reilly speaks on political correctness

BY LEA SEVCIK

Never one to shy from a controversial opinion himself, Fox News correspondent Bill O’Reilly spoke on how “Political Correctness has Damaged America” at the Kennedy School’s ARCO Forum on April 1. O’Reilly, who spoke at HLS last year, is best known as host of the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor.” O’Reilly spoke in a lively and humorous style and characteristically confronted the most controversial issues with self-termed “maverick” views.

To explain the origins of political correctness in the Federal government, O’Reilly introduced two “opposites”: George W. Bush, brought up by a watchful family with a “sense of right and wrong,” and Bill Clinton, brought up with “no restraints” to believe that “there really isn’t a right and a wrong.” According to O’Reilly, Clinton spread his “moral relativism” to his administration. For instance, Clinton removed human rights violators and felons from the CIA’s payroll of informants because it was politically incorrect to associate the CIA with criminals. As a result, intelligence “dried up” because terrorists mostly give their information to those who are like them.

O’Reilly believed that “anybody” would have responded to the terrorist attack of September 11 in the same way as Bush, because of the overwhelming demand for quick retaliation. However, he proposed that while Bush simply labeled the terrorists “evildoers” and his solution was “we will kill them,” Clinton would have had “angst” over how America had offended the terrorists. Though O’Reilly said he found nothing wrong with trying to understand the motives of one’s enemies “as an intellectual exercise,” he warned against policies founded on trying to understand “evil,” as such attempts are “perceived unfortunately in most of the world as weakness.”

O’Reilly delved into other controversial issues when responding to student questions. He argued against reparations for African-Americans, saying that, “if African Americans get reparations from the government then everybody has to get them,” including Chinese Americans, Native Americans, and the families of union soldiers who fought to end slavery.

O’Reilly took personal credit for the current increase in U.S. border patrols, saying that “nobody else in the media would touch it” because it was politically incorrect. O’Reilly argued that even China, where “nobody wants to get in,” has strongly militarized borders, while America allows three million people to enter illegally each year. He said that while the media feared that securing the borders would be offensive to Hispanic Americans, the “Federal government’s mandate is to protect us” and “hey, it’s offending me that we have people coming in with narcotics… [and] that we have people coming to blow us up.”

Finally, O’Reilly criticized “morally relativist” European nations, saying that they “don’t like us” because our culture “overpowers” them. He added that Europeans identify Israel with America, and that if the United States were to stop supporting Israel, “the Arab nations would go in there and destroy them, just as Hitler tried to do, and the Europeans wouldn’t life a finger to help them.”

Spring concert calendar: Music is back

BY JEFF LEVEN

Coming out of its winter hibernation, the music industry gears up for spring as labels issue a flood of new releases and summer tours play their first dates. It may not quite ever be spring in Boston, but on stages around the city you might not notice.

April 11: Giant Sand at the Middle East. If J Mascis had been more into twang and acoustic guitars, he may have sounded a bit like Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb. Straddling that line between indie rock and alternative country, Giant Sand brings its scorched-earth grit to the masses.

April 12: A tossup. If you missed them in the fall, scrounge a ticket and hustle over to see the Beta Band in all their loopy beauty at the Avalon. But if O Brother Where Art Thou? has left you hankering for some down-home flatpicking, try the Yonder Mountain String Band at the Paradise. If you want to see one of heavy metal’s most pulverizing girl groups bash you good for lookin’ at ’em funny, then try Kittie at the Karma Club.

April 13: Bob Mould at the Berklee Performance Center. Normally when a punk rock legend dons an acoustic guitar and “grows up” it’s something to cry about. But the solo career of ex-Husker Du frontman Bob Mould, replete with forays into electronica on his most recent album Modulate, repeatedly threatens to make “maturity” sound downright appealing. Those who aren’t quite willing to part with the crunch of angry punk should check out SoCal phenoms Face to Face at the Axis instead.

April 14: Pat Metheny at the Orpheum. Modern jazz guitarists, particularly of the fusion ilk, tend to play a bit plastic-y and the elevator synthesizers never seem that far away. And then there’s Pat Metheny. It’s one thing to be a ripping guitarist who consistently brings rock and jazz together in a fresh and innovative way. It’s another to be mentioned in the same breath as Charlie Christian, Wes Mont-gomery and Django Rein-hardt. Metheny is both, and a master of his art.

April 15: Pick your blonde! Jazz bombshell Diana Krall entrances the Wang Center while Queen Gwen herself fronts No Doubt at the Tsongas Arena.

April 17: John Mayall at House of Blues. What do Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood and Steve McVie (Fleetwood Mac), and Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones) all have in common? Namely that their careers were started by the same man, England’s blues interpreter par excellence, John Mayall. His Bluesbreakers were the training ground for classic rock as we know it, and although the heady days of the ’60s blues revival have passed, Mayall continues to keep the faith and plays his brand of blues with all the intensity and reverence that marked his earliest work.

April 19: Paul McCartney at the Fleet Center. What can I say? You didn’t have to like Wings (I actually did) or his solo career to accept the fact that the man is one of the songwriters that has shaped the world we live in and that, well, the mere chance to hear him play “Let It Be” or “Hey Jude” probably justifies sitting through whatever filler might be in between.

April 20: Nada Surf at the Middle East. Remember that song “Popular?” Yeah, the video with the football player and the cheerleader making out in the bleachers…. Well, anyway, Nada Surf never really stopped playing – even after MTV unceremoniously dumped them from the “buzz bin” – and it turns out that they write pretty good grunge-pop notwithstanding.

April 23: Spiritualized at Avalon. “Trippy, man!” “Like, spacey, dude!” “Whoa!” This is undoubtedly a good portion of what you’ll hear around you as these space-pop pioneers journey to the center of your mind. But if the company of a couple hundred drug-fuzzed Bostonians isn’t what you bargained for, just get over yourself, dress preppy and let Spiritualized take your ears on a dense, organic, and beautiful journey anyway.

April 24: Willard Grant Conspiracy at Lizard Lounge. Vewy, vewy twicky. Turns out that opening for Jed Parish is a band (of local origin) has been getting a ton of hip insider press from those critics supposedly in the know. So what do they do to them around here? They bury them as the openers at a club below the Common. Go figure. At any rate, Willard Grant Conspiracy is two desperately depressed guys who make desperately depressed grippingly moving vital music. Don’t make a first date out of it, but by all means go and share their pain.

April 26: The Church at the Paradise Rock Club. Ethereal Aussies who rode the new wave of the late ’80s into a modest hit with “Under the Milky Way Tonight” come stateside for another round of shimmery pop exploration.

April 28: Big Daddy Kane at the Middle East. One of hip hop’s earliest progenitors, Kane helped define the look and the sound of the rhymin’ underground but remained a controversial figure (he posed, for instance, in Madonna’s Sex book) throughout. Back on the road, his show is not only a stirring reminder of the roots of heavy rap, but a great party to boot.

Three neo-soul newphytes bless Sanders Theater

BY TREVOR GARDNER

America’s soul music revival swept through Sanders Theater last weekend as three neo-soul neophytes performed at BLSA’s Spring Conference Benefit Concert for the organization’s 2002 Spring Conference.

Audra, a former lawyer who now advises inner-city youth about their constitutional rights, kicked off the night with a series of spoken word pieces recounting her experiences in the black community. Her first piece conveyed the ridicule she received from spoken word lifers when they discovered that she maintained a day job working at a corporate law firm. Next, she delivered a biting commentary on “gangsta rap,” insisting that the rampant materialism within the genre only serves to damage the self-worth of impoverished youth.

Next on the lineup was Motown Records artist Lathun, whose debut album Fortunate will be on shelves this summer. Lathun could be described as a cross between Bilal and… Bilal. Nonetheless, the artist passionately presented his case for being the hot new soul descendant following in the footsteps of D’Angelo, Maxwell and, of course, Bilal. The budding Detroit native set himself apart from the increasingly crowded genre after introducing the audience to his guitar named Harmony and strumming a slow love song that left onlookers in a momentary trance. (Lathun is a self-taught pianist, guitarist and drummer, and normally sings his own background vocals.)

Toward the end of his performance, perhaps after catching a particular vibe from the crowd, Lathum began to take liberties with his clothing. In the tradition of R&B – but thankfully not yet a staple of neo-soul, – Lathun rubbed his belly to the rhythm of the music, casually exposing a little midriff. The crowd’s response was decidedly mixed.

Saxophonist Mike Phillips closed the night with his five-man band, remarkably turning smooth jazz into a memorable experience. His quintet rifled through original songs and a few covers, including a jazz version of Eminem and Dr. Dre’s hit single, “Forgot About Dre,” that spilled into a hip-hop version of the national anthem. Phillips’ screaming sax witnessed to the recent claims that soul has finally made a revival.

As a benefit concert, the event raised money for Vision for Youth, a non-profit organization seeking to improve teen girls’ relationship with mass media. The organization publishes a magazine called HeadZ Up!, which provides teenage girls with opportunities to write, research, and interview on a variety of topics pertinent to their community.

Fenno

BY

“I would use the word [“nigger”] to show people I have the right to use it, but I don’t condone it. I’m not a racist. My wife is Asian, my best friend is from India and I share an office with an African-American whose friendship, knowledge and resources I value.”-Matthias Scholl, quoted in the Harvard Crimson, April 5, 2002.

“If you, as a race, want to prove that you do not deserve to be called by that word, work hard and you will be recognized…. [A]s a result of your complaint I have actually begun using the ‘nigger’ word more often than before the incident.”-Matthias Scholl, in an anonymous e-mail to F. Michelle Simpson, April 1, 2002.

Fenno sat in the Lemann Lounge, feet propped up on one of its oddly heavy tree-stump tables. He put down his copy of the Crimson and sighed. He had never understood why some white people seemed to care so much about that word. Like Scholl, they talked about the “right” to use the word, as if by crying “nigger” they would let slip the forces of freedom and the First Amendment.

Fenno had always thought the word was like a really big sword. For a long time, whites swung it at blacks. Then times changed, and (most) whites finally realized they should drop it. So they did. Blacks later picked it up and started using it among themselves. But the way they used it was more like fencing – hit-and-release but no cutting. Some whites began to ask why blacks got to have all the fun. They wanted to play, too, but got frustrated when blacks wouldn’t let them. Which is where people like Matthias Scholl and Kiwi Camara, Harvard Law School’s very own broadsword lexicographers, come in.

What Fenno couldn’t understand is why they wanted the sword back. Scholl had told the Crimson that perhaps because of a language barrier – Scholl is Polish – the e-mail might have come across more offensively than he intended.

Stupid Polacks, thought Fenno, who suddenly thought of a variation on an old joke: “How do you sink Matthias Scholl’s legal career?”

“Send his e-mail to every firm and judge he applies to.”

Fenno chuckled. He also wondered if anyone had thought about sending Herr Kiwi’s outline to firms. Might be interesting to see what the Boy Wünder would do with that.

Due to the efforts of these two geniuses – and of course the anti-Semitic pamphleteer who opined, with a bold disregard for spelling and grammar (“Jews should ‘rot and hell’ with their ‘yarmukas'”), that HLS cares more about Jews than blacks – Harvard Law School was now embroiled in a mini-race war that seemed to become both more poisoned and more absurd with every passing day.

How did we get here? wondered Fenno, as he began to recall the events of the past few weeks.

It had all started with Kiwi, of course, which should have surprised no one. Puberty’s a bitch. So is being the smartest person at your tiny-ass school in Hawaii and then coming to Harvard Law School. Fenno snickered. Reality bites, huh Kiwi?

Then came that day in Rosenberg’s class. This one really disappointed Fenno, who had long admired the man’s deft balancing of education and abuse.

(Fenno had recently come across a copy of the latest Federal Litigation “core theory” composite, in which Rosenberg peppered anonymous excerpts of his students’ assignments with comments like “are you a pod person?”, “Commie, don’t you have a narrower position?” and “how cold was it Johnny?” Tough love, but what other member of the HLS faculty gives line-by-line feedback to students?)

Rosenberg’s careless dismissal of the contribution of “women” and “blacks” to tort theory – when what he meant was feminist and critical race theory, both fair game for the give-and-take of academic criticism – seemed to have taken on a life of its own. When approached after class, Rosenberg foolishly offered only a faint and awkward semi-apology, instead of simply saying, “I’m sorry, that was out of line, and I shouldn’t have said it.”

But the response was mushy-brained liberalism at its worst. One member of Rosenberg’s class, who clearly should have gone to Yale, convinced the administration to have speakers come in twice a week right after class and present – and here Fenno recalled the student’s e-mail – “alternative and marginalized perspectives on accident law” including “things like the feminist critique of Rawls’ original position and critical race theory.”

“The feminist critique of Rawls’ original position”? Fenno would have loved to see Rosenberg’s response to any sentence that contained both the words “feminist” and “position.”

The students actually seemed proud that they’d “convinced” the administration to agree to this plan. Fenno wondered how long it would take them to figure out that they’d just convinced the administration to (pleasepleaseplease!) ,i>let them spend more time in class. Must have been a tough sell.

Then, just when that fire was dying down, Matthias Scholl had to send out his little manifesto, in which he felt compelled to share that he now uses the word “nigger” more often. And that if blacks didn’t want to be called that, they should just work harder.

Fenno wondered what Scholl’s dear friend, the black officemate whose friendship Scholl so cherished, thought of that one. Fenno bet the officemate enjoyed a hearty laugh.

And then to top it all off, someone who apparently felt that the administration wasn’t responding sufficiently to the concerns of black students had to distribute his semi-literate anti-Semitic gem, which actually made CNN with the headline “Racist flier at Harvard Law School.” (If Fenno’s “special friend” were half as responsive, Fenno would be home right now instead of sitting in Langdell.) And people wonder why we’re number three….

Fenno shook his head. The price of freedom, Fenno thought, is that self-satisfied, underworked, reputedly smart people have enough time to make fools of themselves. Do you think anyone standing in a bread line in Russia had time to be racist?

Oh, and where was Charlie Nesson during all this? Calling for a mock trial of Scholl and offering to represent him. Fenno smiled. Good Time Charlie to the rescue! Someone get that man a joint and a giant ball of twine, stick him in a round room, and tell him to go sit in the corner.

Discover a top-flight taqueria in Somerville

BY JUSTIN OSOFSKY

Tacos Lupita may be mere steps away from Anna’s Taqueria, Boca Grande, and the Wrap, but its food is a world apart. Located at 13 Elm Street in Somerville (a 5-10 minute walk from the Porter Square T), it is a hole-in-the-wall that offers wonderful, authentic Mexican and Salvadorian cuisine.

It takes little more than walking in the door to tell this isn’t a typical burrito chain. You might first notice the Latin American soccer games on one of the dining room TVs; soon after, there’s the sight of the friendly staff, making tortillas by hand, flipping steak cooking on the grill or watching pork slowly roasting on a spit.

The best item I’ve had at Tacos Lupita sounds quite ordinary: chicken soup ($6). It may sound simple, but this version hardly resembles the plain canned variety. Served in a large, Vietnamese-style bowl, this soup first touches the senses with the steam wafting from the yellow-orange broth. The broth is anything but bland, with a chicken stock base complemented by strong touches of cumin and other spices. To kick it up a notch, drop in the small dishes of salsa and hot sauce and give a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice. Tender chicken leg meat falls off the bone, and is supplemented by several substantial breast pieces. The supporting cast includes chunks of carrot, potato, cabbage and zucchini, as well as a few pieces of elbow macaroni. Two hot corn tortillas, perfect for dipping, are served on the side. But be careful: The restaurant only offers soup on Friday (chicken), Saturday (beef) and Sunday (tripe).

The core menu is composed of various combinations of four ingredients: tortillas (corn or flour), meat (steak, pork, tongue, sausage or chicken), vegetables and cheese. The taco ($1.25) is the simplest combination, offering a choice of meat inside two homemade corn tortillas, served with a salsa of onion, cilantro, and tomato and green (mild) or red (hotter) salsa. The burrito ($4) switches to a flour tortilla and adds bean and rice.

For gorditas ($3), the burrito ingredients are stuffed with cheese into a corn tortilla. This dish stands out more because the corn tortilla provides a sharper contrast in texture with the interior fillings. The only tortilla/filling combination to avoid is the mulitas ($3) which are less interesting (only meat and cheese) and tend to be greasy. Those who prefer fillings to tortillas should opt for the combination plate of chicken, pork, steak, rice and beans (the most expensive item on the menu at $8).

To truly experience Tacos Lupita, move beyond the comfort zone of the tortilla and filling offerings. On the Salvadoran side, the pupusas ($1.25) are a griddle-fried combination of corn tortillas, pork and cheese about three inches in diameter and a quarter-inch thick. These are topped with a (pink!) pickled cabbage and jalapeno mixture and a spicy red sauce. Their texture is fascinating – smooth creaminess from the corn meal and cheese mixes with the crispness of the cabbage. The flavor explodes in your mouth – a bit too literally if you stumble into a couple of jalapeno slices. Tacos Lupita also offers a chicken tamale ($1.50) that is far more interesting than its often bland counterparts in Harvard Square.

The restaurant’s staff is extremely accommodating, but expect to wait a few minutes as they make each dish to order in a small kitchen. Beverages are non-alcoholic, and range from the usual sodas to unusual fruit juices. While the décor could definitely be improved, it’s no different than comparable haunts. Tacos Lupita may be slightly off the beaten path, but it offers an authenticity and value that is hard to find in the area.

Tacos Lupita13 Elm StreetSomerville, MA Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-11pm(617) 666-0677

Letters from Berkeley

BY

I called my third-year paper advisor today. It was the best conversation I’ve had with a law professor, ever.

Peter, my advisor, is an older gentleman who wears a Harvard tie. You might assume he’s of the conservative, close-minded sort usually dressed in this garb.

Peter says he’s returning my messages. I’ve just written him an e-mail asking him a question I need him to answer, expecting that his experience as chief counsel to the FDA will enable him to answer me quickly and simply – I want to know where the FDA gets its authority to regulate drugs.

When Peter begins speaking, I initially get the feeling that he thinks the answer is obvious. He tells me that Congress can legislate anything so long as it’s not unconstitutional. The legislature gives the FDA authority by statute.

His answer seems to meet my expectations, but only for a second. After a moment, I find myself feeling shocked by how simple and obvious the whole system really is. I start appreciating that what I momentarily interpreted as condescension on Peter’s part was not that at all. It is simply that he has realized long ago what I am now realizing: Congress acts, the President agrees, and a law can inflict harm on people until a few of those people have enough power and time to think about it and take it to court.

“And where does the government get the authority to regulate drugs?” This was the second question I had for Peter, but at this point it seems almost irrelevant.

“Congress gets its authority from the commerce clause,” he says.

“And what about the Ninth and Tenth Amendments?” I ask him. What about the idea that the rights not explicitly in the Constitution are “retained by the people?” Isn’t that what the Ninth Amendment says, explicitly?

Before Peter can speak, I am struck by the reality of the conception of government I was taught in the Eighth grade, the abstract and super-basic depiction of the powers of the three branches. But the real epiphany does not come until Peter answers my third and final question. He tells me that you have to look at sources outside the Constitution to come up with these Ninth and Tenth Amendment rights.

I immediately respond, “But there isn’t much outside the Constitution, the law, that’s considered legitimate. So our rights are only those the government decides are rights.”

And what does this all mean? If the law is the only thing the law considers to be a legitimate source from which to extrapolate our rights, then there really are no Ninth and Tenth Amendments. There are no rights outside the law.

Peter says I’m right; there’s very little that’s been left to the individual.

And meanwhile I have two weeks left to write a 50-page third-year paper on the right to use drugs.

In the end, this might all turn out all right though, right? Maybe if I refer to Locke and Hobbes enough times, I could one day be considered amongst the natural law types. But that’s only if what I say ever gets put into the law. And the tragic absurdity of it continues.