Dershowitz expolres Terrorism and Arafat


In a lecture Tuesday on the roots of terrorism, Professor Alan Dershowitz argued that terrorism stems not from desperation or dispossession but from the simple fact that it works.

Tracing the history of modern terrorism and the world’s response to it, with particular focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Professor Dershowitz made the case that “global terror is a problem of our own making” due to America’s historical practice of rewarding its perpetrators.

In the speech, entitled “Struggle Against Terrorism: From New York to Jerusalem,” Dershowitz argued that the tragic events of September 11 were a “function of the success of terrorism,” especially as employed by Yasser Arafat in his campaign against Israel. Commending the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban as the first serious effort by a major world power to make terrorists pay for their crimes, Dershowitz argued that Israel should be given the same freedom to act against the Palestinian Authority and other organizations that harbor or support terrorists.

Speaking to a packed audience of students, visitors, and police officers in Austin West, Dershowitz noted that Palestinian terrorism began in 1968 with the hijacking of a jetliner, and subsequently escalated to blowing up the airplanes. At the Munich Olympics in 1972, Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli players and coaches, under direct orders from Arafat. According to Dershowitz, these atrocities were brutally effective in their goal of placing the Palestinian cause into the world’s consciousness.

Dershowitz argued that Arafat’s terrorism was rewarded by the world community. Shortly after one hijacking, he noted that the United Nations gave the Palestinians observer status. After Arafat ordered the murder of the American Ambassador to Sudan – the highest ranking African-American in the U.S. diplomatic corps – Arafat was welcomed to the U.N for a speech to the General Assembly. After four synagogues were attacked, Dershowitz said, the Pope welcomed Arafat to the Vatican.

Dershowitz went on to note that the world pays little heed to the national aspirations of the Kurds and Armenians, who he claimed have greater claims to statehood and have undergone greater suffering than the Palestinians, but who choose not to engage in terrorism. Arguing that Palestinians waged terrorism against Israelis even between 1948 and 1967, when Israel was not occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Dershowitz insisted that the Palestinians’ real goal was not simply a state of their own but an end to any Jewish presence in Palestine.

Claiming that Arafat is a man who “can’t take ‘yes’ for an answer,” Dershowitz noted that the Palestinian leader passed up repeated opportunities to win statehood on reasonable terms, up to and including the proposals made by President Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David and Taba in 2000. When Arafat discovered that even European sentiment was turning against him, Dershowitz said he decided to “play the terrorism card.”

Dershowitz went on to argue that Arafat made the brutal calculation that every death benefited his cause: If an Israeli dies, it increases the cost of occupation, and if a Palestinian dies, it generates world sympathy. Rejecting the contention that Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount “provoked” the second intifada, Dershowitz said he believes that it was a planned operation waiting for an excuse to begin.

Noting a recent poll that found that 87 percent of Palestinians supported the use of suicide bombers against Israeli civilians, Dershowitz argued that collective punishment is justified when a vast majority of the population is complicit in the criminal activity. He concluded that the only way to prevent future attacks like the ones in New York and Israel is to stop rewarding the perpetrators of terrorism, whomever they target, and start punishing them.



Call To Conscience: An Open Letter to Dean Clark and Dean Rakoff

Belief in the ideals of Harvard Law School – the power of rules, reason, persuasion, diversity, and equity – has endowed BLSA with patience during these recent and previous eruptions of anti-Black harassment. However, in the face of your administration’s inadequate response to these events and this systemic problem in the HLS community, BLSA has lost its patience. We now express our frustration with your indifference to the needs of Black law students in crisis. Both of you have communicated with the Law School and the media by press release, but have not once reached out to BLSA directly. Racial harassment is not a matter of damage control or public relations, but a call for leadership. It is the duty of this administration to set a responsible institutional tone of civility, decency, and respect for minorities. No more racial harassment. No more intimidation.

We also write to preserve a record of these incidents and the administration’s willful inaction.

Individual students have met with Dean of Students Richardson on several occasions to discuss this crisis. She is genuine, concerned, and perhaps a friend to BLSA. However, we fear that you, as the ultimate leadership of the Law School, have been fugitives in this crisis, exploiting Richardson as a gatekeeper for the concerns of disconcerted Black students. BLSA students have grown tired of waiting at the gate. Enough of the hypocrisy, public contrition, and private insensitivity. It is time for you to speak directly to the Black community at HLS.

BLSA demands that you fulfill the responsibilities of your offices and take meaningful action with respect to the following disturbing incidents of racial harassment.

  • March 7: In an outline posted on HL Central, a 1L described Shelley v. Kraemer, which helped end restrictive racial covenants, as follows: “Nigs buy land w/ no nig covenant; Q: Enforceable?” The student attached the disclaimer: “offensive racial shorthand is used.” After a Black 1L complained, the administration confronted the author of the outline, who claimed that he was unaware that the material was offensive. Black students who complained about the outline received angry, intimidating emails from other students. One email from a user named “gcrocodile” read:

    We are at the Harvard Law School, a free, private community where any member wishing to use the word “nigger” in any form should not be prevented from doing so…. Shame on you! You have done a great disservice both to HLS and to the African-American community. 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…. as a result of your complaint I have actually began [sic] using the “nigger” word more often than before the incident.

  • March 13: Professor David Rosenberg told his torts class: “Feminism, Marxism, and the Blacks” have contributed nothing to torts, and (to him) torts is the world. Noting that Rosenberg mentioned two ideologies and a race as contributing nothing to the world, a Black 1L asked him to clarify his point. Rosenberg repeated the statement twice to the class. Rosenberg has never apologized.

  • March 13: A Black 1L entered the Legal Aid Bureau to request a membership application. A Bureau member, mistaking her for a client, proclaimed: “This is not how we work here! This is not the process if you need legal aid!” An accompanying friend explained that the Black 1L was a student seeking an application, but the Bureau member stormed off. Humiliated, the 1L left the building. The Bureau sent apologies to BLSA members and the individual student. Nevertheless, members of Legal Aid claim that the Bureau has failed to institute any significant internal changes. Several Bureau members, including students of color, intend to quit in frustration.

  • April 2: Someone deposited copies of a flyer containing hate speech in Section 4 Hark boxes. In an email to his entire section, a student publicly claimed that Black students should be considered prime suspects. He volunteered his fingerprints to the Harvard Police and asked that “any students in our section, AS WELL AS THE BLSA MEMBERS, interested in clearing themselves … should do the same” (emphasis in original email).

  • April 3: When concerned students uncovered gcrocodile’s identity as a fellow Section 4 student, Professor Charles Nesson announced, in another professor’s class, that he would represent the student in a mock trial to be held during his Torts class. Students responded with outrage that a professor would choose to take sides, even if only in the interest of the “adversarial process,” and make a public spectacle of such a sensitive issue. The administration has taken no action with regards to Nesson’s conduct. (Last semester, Nesson cast a student version of “The West Wing at Harvard Law School” in his Evidence class, a parody of the NBC drama. Nesson suggested having a white student play Dean Clark in Blackface, as a joke. “Bob Clark,” he wrote in an email to the class, “is miscast as Bartlett. Ogletree plays Bartlett, Bob plays Charley in Blackface. Now that’s getting to be parody.”)

This is not a free speech issue. Racial harassment has everything to do with basic human decency and little to do with free speech or feel-good political correctness. BLSA supports free speech. Indeed, we are now making use of it.

Several progressive professors and students of all races have expressed outrage at these incidents and the administration’s apathy. This is to the credit of the Harvard Law School community. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the administration shares this moral outrage to the extent that meaningful action, and not just public statements, is warranted.

BLSA therefore finds it necessary to inform alumni, media, donors, incoming students, politicians, and members of the Civil Rights Movement of these shocking incidents at Harvard Law School. BLSA believes that only grass-roots pressure and national public scrutiny – if not embarrassment – will make this administration accountable to its Black students.

We demand that Dean Clark and Dean Rakoff do the following:

1. Address BLSA, in person, about these issues.

2. Allow BLSA representatives to present our demands, in person, at the faculty meeting on May 8, 2002.

3. Institute a policy, applying to both students and professors, banning racial harassment analogous to the School’s sexual harassment policy.

4. Create an Office of Multicultural Aff-airs, with a full-time staff person, solely dedicated to dealing with issues of racial harassment and providing diversity training.

5. Form a committee that includes BLSA and other affinity group representatives, faculty, a diversity consultant, trained negotiators, and Deans Clark and Rakoff to devise a plan for the creation of this office.

6. Prevent Professors Nesson and Ros-enberg from teaching first-year classes and publicly reprimand them in the Harvard Law Bulletin and Harvard Crimson.

7. Take appropriate administrative act-ion against the authors of the offensive outline and the flyer containing hate speech.

8. Require professors, Deans, and incoming students to attend training addressing tolerance in the classroom and academic debate without racial insensitivity.

9. Require Legal Aid to publicize their strategy for remedying their diversity problems and for respectful treatment of their clients of color.

-The membership of the Black Law Students’ Association

Narrow debate worse than no debate at all

In a March 20, 2002 meeting, Justice for Palestine considered Professor Dershowitz’s invitation to debate the merits of the proposal he laid out in his Jerusalem Post article, which prompted JFP to protest outside Dershowitz’s class. At that meeting, the group reached a consensus that such a debate would be both misguided and un

We believe that a debate regarding the merits of destroying entire Palestinian villages frames the question in a narrow and dehumanizing way. The question would be too narrow because it does not address larger issues of Israeli occupation and Palestinian dispossession. The question would be dehumanizing because the very act of questioning whether entire villages should be destroyed starts, we believe, from a premise that Palestinian life is less important than other lives. We believe that it is unthinkable for a Harvard Law professor to call for the destruction of Irish, Basque, Philippine or Kurdish villages. That a debate regarding the destruction of Palestinian villages is suggested indicates that Palestin-ians, once again, are not afforded the same dignity as other humans.

We understand that Prof. Dershowitz believes that there is more to his proposal than a call for the destruction of villages; however, it is undeniable that the driving force behind his proposal, and the reason for our protests, is the unethical call for the destruction of villages. (We do offer to individually discuss the matter with Prof. Dershowitz or any other interested party.)

We decided not to debate Dershowitz’s proposal in large part because affording a public forum for his extremist proposal would lend it a legitimacy it does not deserve. It saddens and shocks us that, only days after this decision, the present government in Israel is following an equally destructive course of action.

Najeeb KhouryPresident, Justice for Palestineand the membership of Justice for Palestine

The Tribulations of Taxation


This weekend, I took part in that most aggravating of annual rituals and filled out my 1040 form. The experience brought to mind my favorite conservative pipe dream (aside from the naughty ones), the one where tax day comes right before election day. One year of that would guarantee us a streamlined system of calculating taxes, a minimal amount of paperwork and a lot more of our income left in our pockets.

But alas, I am stuck with our current system. The worst thing about it is that I’m supposed to be grateful for a refund. While a refund is certainly better than the government keeping my money, I’d be a whole lot happier if they hadn’t taken it to begin with and spared me their accursed forms.

I admire the efforts of the President and Congress to give us a portion of our money back. But if they don’t need it, why do they take it to begin with? It’s not their money to be distributed at their convenience; it’s our money that they should take only when necessary.

I’m not going to argue that all taxation is theft and therefore we ought to run off to our bunkers and declare the sovereign state of New Freeland; taxes are a necessary evil, and the good that comes from paying them is sometimes worthwhile. Without taxes, we wouldn’t have policemen to violate the Fourth Amendment rights of criminals, and then I’d have nobody to root for in criminal law. In addition, we would lack a military, an efficient infrastructure, national parks and other services essential to America’s well-being.

The thing about necessary evils is that they’re only supposed to be tolerated so far as they are necessary. We need not look at the necessity of supporting essential government functions and jump to the conclusion that Rawls was right and disparities in wealth should exist only so far as the government allows them to exist for social utility.

Each working person puts in hard hours to earn his or her paycheck. Every cent the government takes it obtains by virtue of its monopoly on violence – its ability to summon force against an individual citizen to compel payment. Each time this happens, each time the government tells a working person that the fruits of her labor do not belong to her, the government demeans her labor and by implication her time and her abilities, the very essence of her personhood. This sort of activity should obviously be limited as strictly as possible.

This being Harvard Law School, I expect at least a thousand students will rise to the defense of our Federal government and the high taxes required to fund all those great programs (except of course the Department of Defense, the CIA and the criminal division of the Department of Justice). Or maybe taxes are just our most straightforward method of redistribution, and any reduction in them reinforces the power of the evil straight white patriarchy that delights in the misery of others. In either case, these students believe we must fight hard to ensure we are taxed enough.

Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, responding to such concerns, created a discretionary tax for those who wanted to pay more. None of us should be surprised that the fund’s income to date is barely enough to fund a decent night on the town. Apparently the high-tax types in Arkansas are all hat, no cattle. Their concern is less with how they live their lives and more with how they want to force others to live.

I wonder how HLS students would react if they were given a similar option. I doubt they’d put their money where their mouths are. By this time next year, I expect almost all of the big government lefties will be looking for every deduction they can take from their fat corporate salaries – and if that’s what they do, good for them. It’s their money and they should keep what they can to do with as they choose.

Any justification for our current tax regime hinges on the idea that somehow the government’s right to your money supercedes your own. This is not an abstract point of political philosophy; the current conceptual framework we let our government get away with impacts you every hour you work and every dollar you earn. Consider carefully how you want the government to treat you and your earnings, and remember April 15 when November rolls around again.

When should three strikes put you out?


Leandro Andrade was spotted stuffing his pants with “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and a few other videos at a local Kmart. He later found himself locked up for 50 years to life.

Gary Ewing managed to slide three golf clubs down his pants and was caught leaving a store with a mysterious new limp. He was sentenced for 25 years to life.

The source of these incongruous punishments is California’s “three strikes” law, a rule that was challenged by a recent Ninth Circuit decision and is slated to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. “Three strikes, you’re out” was the result of a 1994 referendum organized by a seething California electorate hungry for tougher sentencing of recidivist criminals. After the brutal 1993 murder of young Polly Klaas by a repeat-offender on parole, the state enacted Proposition 184, which hands down an automatic 25 year to life sentence for a third felony conviction. The Federal government and 24 other states have similar laws.

The problem with such laws lies in the severity of the punishment relative to the gravity of the third strike that triggers it. While it may be appropriate to mandate tougher punishments for repeat serious and violent offenders, only in California can a person be locked up for life for a petty theft of children’s movies. I believe in tough crime laws for my home state, but “three strikes” has gone too far.

Fifty-seven percent of the 7,000 inmates currently in California jails under this rule committed a nonviolent felony as their third strike. Many of these offenders have been sentenced to multiple consecutive terms of 25 years to life. Six-hundred-forty-four of these last-straw violations involved drug possession. Worse, 340 of these prisoners have been incarcerated for up to life on third-strike convictions for petty theft. This is because California’s law incorporates more than just violent crimes. Its harshness is also due to a peculiar state law that raises misdemeanors to felonies for people with previous property convictions. Thus, somebody like Ewing could spend an inordinate length of time in jail for what would otherwise have been treated as a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year. In essence, he is being punished twice for previous acts – a policy that is supposed to be unconstitutional. Suffering from AIDS and not eligible for parole until 2025 at the age of 63, Ewing looks to be the non-violent victim of a poorly executed effort to reduce violent crime levels. I sincerely doubt that voters supporting Proposition 184 intended such outcomes.

Beyond arguments of equity, there are logical problems with California’s law. Andrade’s third strike, for example, only counted as such because of two earlier burglary convictions that forced his third crime, a misdemeanor, to be counted as a felony. If those two previous convictions were for violent non-property crimes, he would have been spared the iron fist of three strikes. Secondly, Andrade would have avoided the penalty had he committed the video theft first and the burglaries later, since his video theft would not have been boosted to a felony.

An additional effect of the rule has been to incarcerate a much older population of offenders, since they tend to have a longer criminal histories. The cost to incarcerate one such inmate for up for 25 years is approximately half a million dollars. These offenders are usually past the pinnacle of their criminal careers, yet they are left to waste away on the public’s dime while helping to jam jails even more tightly. Comparing the $500,000 cost of incarceration to the $153.54 worth of kid’s flicks that Andrade stole, it is clear that the state can use the money for more constructive purposes.

It is hard to guess what the Supreme Court’s final decision will be. The Court has a history of rebuffing the Ninth Circuit whenever given the chance, but Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Scalia have said before that they fail to see a requirement in the Eighth Amendment to seek proportion between the crime committed and the punishment applied. Among the more liberal justices, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens have indicated before that the three strikes rule could “raise serious Constitutional issues.” It seems that, yet again, this will come down to the middle-of-the-roaders: Justices Kennedy and O’Connor.

The impact of the Court’s decision could be far-reaching. The immediate question is whether the Ninth Circuit was correct in finding that Ewing and Andrade were subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. That ruling will only be based on the particular extent of California’s three strikes law and not that of other states. The argument for three strikes generally is deterrence – that there has been a significant decrease in violent crimes since their enactment.

Thus, anti-crime advocates might be comforted to know that upholding the Ninth Circuit might not invalidate the entire policy, but only smooth the rough edges. Whatever deterrent effects the policy has would still be felt – repeat violent and serious offenders would still be subject to long prison terms. The original spirit of the law would thus be maintained while casting the net less broadly. Yet affirming will mean that people who shoplift and possess drugs will not be thrown behind bars unfairly for decades too long. Sixty-five percent of Californians were recently found to be in favor of amending the policy, so let us hope their wishes are met again.

Unsolicited Opinions Column


Please consider the following opinion column (650 words) for publication. Thank you. Jacob Appel, Class of 2003.

STEM CELL RESEARCH UPROOTED Fifteen months have elapsed since President Bush called a halt to federal funding for research on new lines of pluripotent stem cells. That decision, which placed him squarely at odds with the majority of Americans and many of the most respected leaders in his own party, rested upon a highly misguided approach to the ethical questions involved. Subsequent developments in the availability of pre-existing stem cell lines have revealed that his decision rested upon several highly flawed factual assumptions as well. At the times of the President’s decision, an ABCNEWS/Beliefnet poll revealed that Americans supported federal funding for stem cell research by a margin of more than two-to-one. Supporters included not only traditional liberal constituencies, but also a majority of Roman Catholics and Evangelical White Protestants. Some of the nation’s staunchest opponents of abortion are among the strongest supporters of such research, including Senators Orinn Hatch of Utah, Trent Lott of Mississippi, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Gordon Smith of Oregon, former Senator Connie Mack of Florida, former President Gerald Ford and former First Lady Nancy Reagan. These prominent conservatives have joined the growing chorus of leading scientists who believe that research on pluripotent stem cells may hold the clues to curing such scourges as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and leukemia, and may help victims of spinal cord injuries to walk again. They also understand that these breakthroughs–if the appropriate research is properly funded–may be only a few years away. But most importantly they recognize that stem cell research has nothing at all to do with the destruction of human life: Small cell clusters produced in petri dishes are not human being and they are not even potential human beings; unless they are implanted in the wombs of women–and surely no one suggests conscripting women in which to implant them–they will remain small cells clusters indefinitely. The President justified his halt to federal funding on the grounds that many lines of pluripotent stem cells already existed and that these would be available to researchers. Yet of the sixty-four lines cited by the Bush Administration in August of 2001, fewer than ten are now available to the scientific community. Roger Pederson, a leading California-based investigator who has since taken his laboratory to England, points out that these lines were cultivated with mouse cells and are all but ineligible for transplantation to humans. In addition, even if these lines were all made widely available, even if all the challenges of keeping the fragile cells alive were surmounted and all the patent battles resolves in favor of expanded access, most researchers currently believe these sixty-four lines will not come close to satisfying the needs of medical science. In short, the President made his decision upon one set of facts. Since it now appears those facts have turned out to be inaccurate, it would appear prudent to reexamine that decision. Unfortunately, what should be a rather straightforward scientific matter has been clouded by a small group of vocal extremists. While we should certainly allow these individuals the right to wallow in their superstition and ignorance–much as in a free country we permit people to advocate a geocentric model of the universe and a flat earth–we should not let them impose either their scientific illiteracy or their moral bankruptcy upon the rest of us. Nor should we allow our president to succumb to their political pressure. This is especially the case when the cost in human lives and human suffering will be so painful. It is highly likely that the incoming United States Congress will vote on a measure to renew federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. You can substantially increase the chance of its passage by taking a moment to write to your senators and your member of congress to urge them to take a passionate and public stand in favor of this life-saving research. The life you save may be your own or that of someone you love.

A Player Grows Up


Most people who go see the talky, acerbically amusing and decidedly amoral Roger Dodger will recognize a male type they’ve come across before. In fact, not one type but three. There’s the fast-talking know-it-all who’s just clever and self-aware enough to stay one step up from the used car lot. The would-be player who’s not nearly as smooth an operator as he thinks he is. And finally, the rejected lover whose obsession with his ex borders on the psychotic. It’s no mean feat that Campbell Scott, veteran of indie fare like The Spanish Prisoner, manages to unite these distinctly unattractive types in a single character — and render the combination weirdly engaging.

Written and directed by newcomer Dylan Kidd, Roger Dodger is a comedy, but one with unexpectedly dark overtones. It rides the fine line between urbane satire and sordid realism, the latter accentuated by the poor lighting, the jerky, hand-held camera work and the unflattering glimpses it offers of the seamier side of New York. Yet Roger remains essentially opaque, perhaps deliberately so, and the movie mirrors its central figure. In the end, the film — like Roger himself — rejects any kind of in-depth analysis. The dialogue, which bristles with intelligence and ironic wit, is a constant reminder that we are not to take Roger too seriously, but to accept him on his own terms.

The plot is simple: Roger, who works in advertising and likes to spout a cheerfully cynical view of humankind and the relation between the sexes in particular with the fluent flippancy of a modern-day Oscar Wilde, is having an affair with his boss (a hard-edged Isabella Rossellini). She dumps him, and Roger can’t believe it. His response is to hit the bars, where he doesn’t so much try to pick up women as revenge his own humiliation by psychoanalyzing them to their faces and offending them as deeply as possible. He succeeds at the latter, scoring laughs from the audience, if not his prey.

It is at this propitious moment that his teenaged nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) turns up, ostensibly to visit Columbia for an interview, but really to get tips from his uncle about picking up chicks: Nick has heard from his mother that his uncle is something of a “ladies’ man.” Roger agrees to take the boy out on the town and educate him in the art of seduction. However, because his view of women is obviously more warped than usual, he plays Mephistopheles rather than Don Juan to the unsuspecting Nick; one of the most pointedly allegorical sequences involves Nick and Roger descending underground, and ends with them rolling around literally in the garbage. Indeed, it becomes obvious fairly early on that bitter Roger is trying to get his kicks out of destroying his nephew’s naive conceptions of love and women — even though the only women with whom they have any significant contact (played by Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkeley of Flashdance and Showgirls fame, respectively) are predictably charmed and touched by Nick’s wide-eyed innocence, and turned off by Roger’s sardonic misogynism.

Not to worry: Most of this film is funny, not serious, and Nick comes up dewy fresh as a rose, presenting an effective foil to the dissipated, over-seasoned alcoholic Roger. In fact, what connects nephew and uncle is less their differences in experience than their common immaturity. Roger is no more than the boy who refuses to grow up: At his lowest point, he scrawls insults on a bathroom mirror that are as childish as they are offensive. There are signs, too, that Roger could stand for some psychoanalysis himself: Hints of a troubled relationship with his father suggest, but only suggest, a partial explanation for his particular case of arrested development. Because of that, he can be all the more dangerous, especially during the disturbing moment when he leaves Nick to take advantage of a woman nearly passed out from drunkenness (“Always look for the women who are two drinks ahead of everyone else,” he says), so he himself can go confront his ex-lover.

The film retreats a little from the uglier side of Roger’s character, allowing him a certain measure of moral redemption at the end. But not too much. The ending strikes just the right note — the Roger we see at the end is not so much a reformed Roger as Roger on a good day rather than a bad one — and ends at just the right moment, with Nick as the final arbiter of his destiny as ladies’ man. He may have learned something from his one-night odyssey with Uncle Roger, but what that is, only he knows.

Want to find out when and where Roger Doger (or any other film) is playing?  Check out our Movie Channel.

Divestment Panel Reveals Rifts


Professor Alan Dershowitz, who was not at the debate, is one of the most outspoken opponents to divestment.

The debate over whether Harvard should divest itself of stock issued by companies doing business with Israel took a heated turn two weeks ago when five Harvard-MIT panelists spoke at the Law School about why they signed a growing divestment petition.

The panelists included Lamont Professor of Divinity and Winthrop House Master Paul D. Hanson, Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Spelke, Pierce Professor of Psychology Ken Nakayama, and Professors Molly Potter and Nancy Kanwisher from the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at MIT.

Speaking to an overflowing and rowdy crowd of students and faculty, the panelists raised issues about Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the need for the United States to take a neutral position in the Middle East, as well defending themselves against charges of being anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Each panelist said the Israeli occupation of the West Bank was the primary contentious issue that must be resolved if Israel wants to protect its citizens. They further argued that signing the divestment petition was concrete action Harvard could take to help end the cycle of violence that began over two years ago with the Palestinian uprising.

The tension in the room was only partially evident during the speeches, as those who held differing opinions were usually deferential to whomever was speaking. Sometimes, however, a particular comment would evoke jeers from many in the crowd, as was the case when a panelist linked her signing of the divestment petition to Christian resistance during the Nazi era.

When it came time to field questions, however, it was evident that many in the crowd were not convinced by the panelists’ arguments. Though Prof. Duncan Kennedy was the moderator, several students used the occasion to make brief speeches on why the divestment petition was either necessary in order to stop the violence, or why it represented an unfair characterization of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians. Several asked why Prof. Hanson declined to debate Prof. Alan Dershowitz in Winthrop House recently, leaving Dershowitz to speak with Winthrop students by himself. One crowd member in particular asked what credentials the panelists held that gave them the authority to solve a geo-political issue as contentious as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Most members of the audience thanked the panelists for defending their position and for bringing these issues to the forefront of the debate. Others applauded their bravery in facing an overwhelmingly anti-divestment crowd while remaining true to the principles that led them to sign the divestment petition.

Outside the debate, a group of students gathered to protest the event. Harpaul Alberto Kahli, a senior at Harvard College said, “The divestment petition is one of the most inflammatory petitions ever to come out of Harvard. It is just very divisive.”

Another student who was holding a “Divest from P.A. Terror” sign commented, “When I heard about the debate hosting only professors who signed the petition, it seemed kind of unfair. We came here to show that it is not a black and white issue, but is many shades of grey.”

Bellow Award Recipients Honored


Matthew Colangelo ´02 accepted the Bellow Award Monday.
Professor Sarah Buel ´90 accepts the Bellow Award.

In what is becoming a Law School tradition, over 80 students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered in the Ropes Gray room Monday to honor this year’s winners of the second annual Gary Bellow Public Service Award. Taking home the student-organized award this year were Matthew Colangelo ‘02 for his work on civil rights and the death penalty and University of Texas Professor Sarah Buel ‘90 for her work with domestic violence victims.

The two-year-old award was created as a student initiative to encourage students and alumni to make a commitment to public service and to honor the late Professor Gary Bellow, the founder of Harvard’s Clinical Program. Colangelo and Buel were selected by a student body vote from a slate of five student finalists and five alumni finalists last spring.

“It’s humbling and surprising to see one’s name on the same page as people like Gary Bellow,” Colangelo told the audience.

Ronald Tabak ‘74, the coordinator of the pro bono program at Skadden, Arps and the evening’s keynote speaker, cited Colangelo for his work with Professors Carol Steiker and Charles Ogletree on the death penalty. With Steiker, Colangelo traveled to a University of Texas conference on the death penalty to discuss his research on international treatment of capital punishment. Similarly, Colangelo’s work with Ogletree led him to a conference at the University of Oregon to discuss the role of race in the death penalty. Colangelo also published an article in the Law Review on the death penalty and the Eighth Amendment.

For Buel, receiving the Bellow Award had personal significance. “I can’t think of anyone else in the universe I would want an award named after,” she said. She added, “It’s going in the middle of my wall.”

Buel said she first met Bellow at a Massachusetts conference for Legal Aid Bureau workers, when she was a paralegal at a Boston bureau. She had been trying to convince her coworkers that the agency should try to serve all of a client’s legal needs rather than focusing only on the problem they came in with. When Bellow, who had long advocated that approach, made a speech making Buel’s point, Buel said she was amazed that she had such august company.

Working full time during the day and attending classes at night, Buel attained an undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1987 and later a J.D. from the Law School.

“This place seemed like a mountain top,” she told the audience of her time at the Law School. It was at HLS that Buel had a chance to work with Bellow, who she described as funny, motivated and demanding.

“Gary was also a tremendous support,” Buel said.

After graduation Buel continued her work with victims of domestic violence. Following in Bellow’s footsteps, Buel took a position as a Clinical Professor at the University of Texas School of Law after working as a prosecutor and Snow serves as co-director of UT’s Domestic Violence Clinic.

Buel was hardly the only fan of Professor Bellow at Monday’s event. Tabak, the keynote speaker, told the audience that he still considered himself a student of Bellow.

Following Bellow’s lead, Tabak told the students, “You can do public interest work!”

Even at large law firms, he said, students have the chance to do pro bono work. The problem, he said, was not that lawyers did not want to do pro bono work, but that they did not know what the opportunities were and that they are afraid of doing an inadequate job.

Tabak — the pro bono coordinator at Skadden, Arps — criticized Dean Robert Clark for misjudging the enthusiasm of students for public interest. Tabak claimed that Clark had said a few years ago, “Look at what a low percentage of our graduates actually got public interests jobs. That proves they are not interested.”

“That was absolutely preposterous. And it is still preposterous. The fact is that before our [Skadden public interest] fellowships started, virtually no [public interest] jobs were available to people right out of law school,” Tabak said.

Tabak told students not to be daunted if their firm did not have a strong public interest program.

“You can help get law firms to be more supportive of pro bono,” he said.

Grad Student Council battles anonymity


It plans a huge yearly party and fights the power in the Harvard administration. And many Harvard Law School students don’t know it exists.

“What the hell is the Grad Student Council?” asks 2L Scott Smith.

“I have not heard of it either,” adds 2L Rebecca Riley.

Neill Perry, a 1L, tries a guess of his own. “This is different from the Law School Council, right?”

Not bad for a 1L. But the Graduate Student Council is different — a committee with four representatives from each of Harvard’s graduate schools. It both plans social events – including the popular annual Valentine’s Day party — and serves as an advocacy group for graduate students’ interests. In the end, part of the council’s mission probably matches what many students would expect. As Smith puts it, “I imagine if it’s a ‘Grad Student Council’, it’s something we piss and complain to.”

Recently, at one of the council’s biweekly meetings, members discussed topics ranging from dissatisfaction with health services to transportation to the Allston move. Linda Ellison, the council’s president, says that the group has also addressed a troubling series of sexual harassment incidents. On Tuesday, council members will meet with the University’s provost to discuss a variety of concerns.

But it seems that publicity among HLS students has not been high on the council’s agenda.

Theories about HLS students’ lack of knowledge and interest consistently focus on one factor: the size of the Law School student body compared to other Harvard grad programs. “For us, the grad council is not as beneficial as for other schools,” said 3L Joi Chaney, a law school representative on the GSC and the council’s Vice President. “We don’t think of ourselves as being a part of Harvard University, but as being a part of Harvard Law School.”

As Chaney and others explain, students at Harvard’s smaller graduate schools have shown more interest in the council as a way to connect with the wider university when their own schools cannot provide as large a community and as many student organizations as HLS.

The issue arose, Ellison said, when the GSC decided on equal representation on the council for each school. The Business School and HLS, though much larger, would have the same four representatives as smaller programs such as the Education School or the School of Public Health.

“Schools that are smaller don’t feel they have a voice on campus,” said Ellison, who studies at the Divinity School. “The grad council is a way they can come and feel they make a real impression.”

Still, both Chaney and rank-and-file law students say the GSC is relevant to HLS. Ted Bosquez, a 1L, said that the council could be an important force for seeing to the needs of all graduate students. “I don’t want to say we’re treated like second-class citizens,” he said, “But we’re not treated like the undergrads.”

Chaney and Ellison also focus on the council’s role in building community between Harvard’s many graduate programs. Chaney noted that the Law School is “very independent” but says that it “should have more of a connection with other schools.”

The council is “really the only vehicle for grad students to reach across the university,” said Ellison. She adds that the council fulfills a role missing from Harvard’s overall “every tub” philosophy of interschool relations, which puts independent financing and decision-making processes in place for each school. “[The GSC] transcends the ‘every tub has its own bottom’ philosophy, because it holds everything together and shows that there is something beneath them,” she said.

As the council’s most popular event for building community, the annual Valentine’s Day party attracted 2700 students last February to a Boston club, Ellison said. But the event’s computer dating match-up has also attracted students to each other. In the past five years, Ellison said, nine couples who first met at the party have since been married.

During the rest of the year, male-female relations on campus are not always so sweet. Ellison has become someone female graduate students often “piss and complain to,” but increasingly with serious charges of sexual harassment or even rape. She said the council and administration have responded by forming a committee to set out a sexual harassment policy “for the university, and not only for college students.” The College’s revised policy was itself a target of sharp criticism last spring.

Otherwise, the council has focused on the less highly-charged issues on the student government agenda. Delegates at the October 1 meeting discussed lackluster health services, which they said had led to numerous student complaints at many schools. Housing and transportation are also areas of student concern, Ellison said, which the council has begun discussing with the administration.

The council is also in the middle of filling its own ranks. Many schools have yet to select all four of their representatives for the year. At HLS, the Law School Council recently selected 1L Holly Hogan to join Chaney and 2L Rachel Saldana on the GSC.

Starting this year, the representatives may be involved in more than simply conducting council business. “As law school reps,” Chaney said, “we need to make sure we do better at publicizing [the council] to students.”

Beyond Losing


I have never been an avid politico. I have never worked for a campaign, never served in student government — indeed, I’ve only voted twice in my life, including yesterday. Yet there comes a time in every student’s life when they succumb to a bout of idealism and they decide to get involved.

This desire struck me a few weeks ago while I was attending a meeting of the HLS Democrats (for the free pizza, of course). They were organizing students to travel to New Hampshire and serve as poll watchers for the party. I wasn’t quite sure what a poll watcher was, but after “the Florida incident” the need seemed pressing, so I heartily enlisted.

Allow me to tell you what a poll watcher is. A poll watcher gets up at 4:30 a.m. in order to make it to the polls on time. A poll watcher sits on a folding metal chair in an elementary school gymnasium for 12 hours to make sure no eligible voter is turned away. A poll watcher walks to the nearest Dunkin Donuts 25 minutes away to buy a cup of coffee so that he doesn’t fall asleep, and, by the way, New Hampshire doesn’t have sidewalks (I hope this is high on Senator Sununu’s priority list, though Republicans aren’t known for projects that benefit actual people). Finally, a poll watcher must argue with 80-year-old women who run the polls every time they break New Hampshire election laws, which — in Manchester’s Ward 12 at least — proved to be very infrequently.

Poll-watching also gave some cause for optimism. A poll watcher gets to see hundreds of people register to vote for the first time (in New Hampshire, voters are allowed to register at the polls). A poll watcher gets to see people young and old, rich and poor of course, but they also get to see people who are handicapped, people who are blind, people who have mild Down Syndrome, people with Parkinson’s disease, people covered in paint taking time out of their short lunch break, people bussed in from nursing homes — none of whom get turned away. If they need help casting their ballots, the law requires they receive it. When I saw an 80-year-old white male poll worker help a young black woman who was legally blind cast her ballot — a woman who required a seeing-eye dog just to find her way to the polls — it was enough to convince even this cynic that maybe democracy does work. Maybe the images we saw during our last election really were the exception rather than the rule.

With that said, there is still a feeling of sadness on campus today. I would argue that Harvard is growing increasingly conservative in its old age (especially after my contracts class), but quite a few liberals remain. I overheard one young woman today say she felt like crying after watching the poll numbers come in. Well, fellow Democrats, we should be sad. And we should be angry, but not because we feel some grave injustice was done on election day. Leave that for Al Sharpton.

We should be angry at ourselves. We failed to fully articulate our beliefs. We failed to show America why it is a very bad idea to give President Bush the rubber stamp he so desperately desired. Our leadership, Daschle and Gephardt (perhaps the most charismatic leaders since silent Calvin Coolidge) have shown the true depths of their inability to mount any real challenges.

But finally, as with any loss, we need to find a way to channel our anger and our sadness into a desire to effect change. You may have watched TV last night, hoping that the numbers would come out your way, but an election is not a lottery. I feel sadness today, not because we lost, but because I didn’t do enough to help my party win.

Divestment Panel shows intellectual laziness


Two weeks ago, I noticed a “Justice for Palestine” flyer. Although I would consider “Drive the Jews into the Sea” a more honest name for this group, I stopped to read the advertisement, and eventually decided to attend the event.

That night, a panel discussion was held featuring five professors from Harvard and MIT who had signed a divestment petition that seeks to remove all Harvard and U.S. funds from Israel. Ostensibly, the goal of the petition is cripple an already weak Israeli economy, thus giving Israelis a final push out of their homeland.

As I approached Austin West that evening, I felt pangs of apprehension: If it turned out that there actually was some sort of rational basis for this petition, I would be forced to apologize for all the times I denied the existence of the tooth fairy, unicorns and the abominable snowman. Fortunately, I needn’t have worried.

Although I am pro-Israel, I am not anti-Palestinian. Palestinian people living in poverty-stricken conditions in Israel do not deserve their situation. Civilians killed in attempts to root out terrorists do not deserve to die, and should never be targeted. Israeli settlers who intimidate and beat people and steal from Palestinian olive orchards are not entitled to their criminal behavior.

If there was some way that peace could be guaranteed in Israel by giving the Palestinians a homeland, I would favor such a move. Actually, hostilities would cease if Palestinians were granted the lands they desire. The only problem is that the land they desire is Israel — all of it.

At the panel, each speaker echoed a common theme. Each discussed his or her opposition to the violation of Palestinian human rights by Israel, U.S. financial and military support of a country that violates human rights and support for divestiture of funding until Israel takes an “initial step” toward peace.

As I pointed out to the panelists during the ridiculously-formatted “question and answer” session (Prof. Duncan Kennedy’s “moderation” of this discussion was an absolute sham), each of these contentions is completely supportable — so long as the other side gets no seat at the table.

Each contention shares the twin ailments of rank hypocrisy and latent anti-Semitism. To hear the panelists, one would imagine that the Israeli army mows down innocent women and children without any provocation.

It is true that civilians have died at the hands of Israeli soldiers. That cannot be justified, but it can be explained: These casualties occurred during military strikes against known and suspected terrorists. The Israeli army attacks military targets, and in military actions there are often civilian casualties. These civilians do not deserve to die, but they also are not the targets of the attack. This stands in stark contrast to the tactics employed by Palestinian terrorists who target civilians almost exclusively. If someone could demonstrate how a public bus in Jerusalem translates into a military target, I would be very interested. None of the panelists mentioned the hundreds of innocent Israelis and others who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. The panelists insist that Israel should be punished for violating human rights, yet they tacitly allow murder — the ultimate violation of human rights — when the primary victims are Israelis.

As for the demand that Israel take the “initial step” toward peace, the panelists succeeded in demonstrating that they are both historically ignorant and hypocritical. Yasser Arafat had an offer from Israel that would have met 97 percent of his demands in 2000, and he rejected it. Evidently, the panelists’ definition of “initial” differs from that found in the dictionary.

More than 50 years have passed since the world turned a blind eye to Hitler’s attempt to systematically exterminate the Jewish people. Out of that tragedy emerged the recognition of the need for a Jewish homeland. Israel is the manifestation of that home. Now, the pro-divestment movement wants Harvard and the entire United States to turn its back on Israel once again. Israel’s crime? Actively defending itself against the murderous acts of terrorists, who deny Israel’s right to exist. Following this logic, one would expect that a draft is in the works to sanction the U.S. for attacking the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

The signatories to this petition have disgraced themselves and Harvard University. They have every right to oppose Israel and to speak their mind on the subject. However, signatories who are University professors have the intellectual obligation to make good faith efforts to present the truth. A half-truth is every bit as deceptive as an outright lie.

The signatories want divestment because they do not like Israelis. To sign this kind of petition and insist otherwise is an insult. The signatories place the blinders of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy over their eyes, and urge us to do the same. I can only hope that truth is too important to this institution for them to succeed.

Epstein, Jolls debate employment law


On October 24, nearly two hundred students crowded into Langdell South to witness a vigorous exchange between University of Chicago Prof. Richard Epstein and Prof. Christine Jolls on the question of repealing employment anti-discrimination laws.

The two professors come from almost completely opposite political ends of the spectrum: Epstein is perhaps the most famous and important libertarian thinker in the legal world today, and his many books include a controversial work against employment anti-discrimination laws. Jolls is one of the country’s top researchers on employment and labor law and believes it is morally urgent to maintain anti-discrimination laws. The debate was sponsored by the HLS Federalist Society.

The formal-style debate began with Epstein’s cost-benefit analysis of anti-discrimination laws.

“Any system with freedom and justice will outperform a system where there is justice at the barrel of a gun,” he said.

In retort, Jolls described three examples of the need for anti-discimination laws. First, she recounted a recent study where students named Lokesha and Jamal had to send out twice as many resumes as their identical counterparts Emily and Brendon to get as many callbacks.

But Epstein countered that the study shows the pernicious effects of current anti-discrimination laws: “Employers discriminate at hiring to prevent the threat of liability at the promotion or firing stage.” He added that “the transition period is over” and anti-discrimination laws no longer have a positive effect on the employment of minorities. Jolls believed otherwise, but acknowledged a lack of studies on the subject since the early 1980s.

Second, Jolls noted a study where orchestras with “blind” auditions where applicants played behind a heavy screen noted a dramatic increase in the hiring rate of women. Epstein applauded the study as an effective private solution that argues against a government-regulated system. Jolls responded that, “in most situations, private solutions won’t work. In most places you can’t interview behind a screen.”

Finally, Jolls spoke of the tragic death of her college friend, who was killed in an incident of racial violence in South Africa. “It’s not so easy to separate a world where people are separated by non-governmental discrimination from a world where basic physical characteristics can cause people’s lives to be at risk,” she said.

Epstein responded that, “when you say that discrimination is the paradigmatic wrong, then you’re downgrading force as the paradigmatic wrong.”

The professors also discussed the effects of age anti-discrimination laws. Epstein asked, “why are you taking some old guy like me and trying to protect my job so that younger people can’t get jobs in the ordinary course of the business cycle?” Jolls responded that age anti-discrimination laws are important because they enable people to get paid in an “upward-sloping wage profile” — that is, they help avoid the problem of employers hiring only low-wage young people and then transitioning them out before having to increase their salaries.

The most entertaining part of the debate occurred when the professors discussed a Supreme Court case that upheld an employer’s right to refuse to hire a man with infectious hepatitis. Jolls strongly supported the worker’s right to choose employment that would worsen his condition: “If just because of an accident of birth people are disabled, they shouldn’t be penalized,” she said.

Epstein countered that society is forced to pay for the worker’s deterioration, but Jolls responded that hepatitis was not actually infectious. At that point, Epstein interjected: “I had the disease, and they kept me home!” Jolls finally responded by saying that “the idea of using fear of contagion as a defense strikes me as completely wrong.”

Student impressions of the debate were positive. One-L Chris Richardson praised the “very spirited debate on a hard subject to talk about,” while 1L Meagan Martin said: “I’m glad I’m at a university that sponsors such a diverse set of opinions.”

As for their impressions of the speakers, 1L Trent Hamilton stated that “Jolls had a lot of class in the way she presented everything, Epstein is definitely a lot more aggressive.” One-L Amber Taylor added that, “Professor Jolls seemed to rely on her religious views on a couple of these arguments — twice she directly compared libertarian views with religious views. I thought that was an interesting argument and one that I did not expect.”

1L Experience: Spying on solitaire


The black nine on the red ten. Don’t you see it? No, don’t give up, no, NO! You can win this one. To the left, to the left. Look at the column. It’s right there. NO!

I’ve found that it’s very hard to telepathically communicate solitaire moves to the person sitting in front of me, no matter how hard I try. I pretend to take the moral high ground by refusing to play games on my laptop in class. Instead, I watch everyone else do it.

It’s become part of the sights and sounds of the classroom. The clickety-clack of laptop keys. The message on the blackboard about this afternoon’s symposium on Law and Cauliflower in the Ropes-Gray room. The kid down the row from me peeing in his pants every time his name is called.

And solitaire. Well, not just solitaire. Hearts. Minesweeper. Snood. Games where you shoot colored squares as they fall down from the sky. Games where you catch colored circles as they rise up to the sky. In criminal law, I see people playing first-person shooting games. Next semester in property, I imagine I’ll see people playing Sim City. Perhaps in the sports law class, people play NHL Hockey. And in feminist legal theory, well, I think you can see where I’m going….

It’s hard not to watch the screens. It’s impossible not to get mesmerized by the cards falling like springs when your neighbor wins at solitaire. Impossible not to marvel at the ability of some people to simultaneously play pinball and answer a professor’s question, without missing a flip of the flipper or a precedent-setting case cited. Impossible not to wonder why we feel the need to keep ourselves otherwise entertained even while we’re sitting in the classroom being taught by some of the smartest people in the world.

Even without playing games, I find things to steal my attention away. I change the colors on my screen. I spell-check. I use Microsoft Word’s auto-text feature to create time-saving abbreviations while I take notes. My computer now automatically turns “sc” into “Supreme Court.” It turns “tjur” into “territorial jurisdiction.” My favorite is that I’ve made “oms” immediately transform into “objective manifestation of subjective intent.” Thirty-seven letters saved. Used it 24 times in one contracts class.

The distractions make computers a curse as well as a blessing. Sure, they let us take notes more quickly and make them more organized and easier to read — relieving us from having to decode our hurried scribbles when we go back over the pages (“is this a reference to Uniform Commercial Code section 2-207, or my professor’s office hours?”) — but they also give us dozens of ways to keep from paying attention.

I genuinely feel guilty whenever I lose focus and start changing my font or making the text blink. I feel like it’s ridiculous that I can’t force myself to concentrate for an hour and a half — especially since much of what’s happening in the classroom is genuinely interesting, or at least useful. I start to wonder if it’s a function of technology having made our expectations too high — television and computers and video games and cell phones and microwave ovens. (Microwave ovens? Maybe not.) Constant stimulation. Overkill.

I see commercials for cell phones that let you check e-mail, play games, send text messages, surf the Web, store your daily schedule and do long division. Isn’t simply being able to talk on the phone enough? And if we’re used to our gadgets and gizmos doing seven things at once, I guess we’re used to our brains functioning like that as well. A professor talking just isn’t enough. We need solitaire and minesweeper and pinball and Warcraft III (I did research to find that one) as well. It almost makes me wish we didn’t have technology at all. That we didn’t grow up with all this stuff to distract us. That laptops didn’t come with solitaire. That simply listening to the professor would be enough. It really should be.

But I’m writing this during class. So who am I to talk?

Letters from Berkeley: Halloween gets spooky


Halloween used to be my favorite holiday because I had a sweet tooth that was nearly unstoppable. Now that I eat a more peaceful, sugar-free diet, I’ve found another reason to love this day — mostly, the societal permission given to look and act like a fool.

This year I was a fun-lovin’ socialite, wearing a bright red bell-bottomed satin jumpsuit so tight it made my flat Asian ass look juicy, and a curly ash blond wig. My face was luridly made up, but that wasn’t what really made the costume so sublimely creepy — instead, it was bringing it to life through action. So I did at the party I went to, gyrating wildly about to songs such as “She’s Just a Cosmic Girl,” with a little white stuffed dog that made squeaky barking noises whenever I shook him.

Choosing costumes seems to be a pretty unconscious thing at first glance, much of it depending on what I have lying around and how heavy I want to go on the scales of creepy-sexy. But of course, if I think about it I can see a deeper meaning to it. It’s said that one’s fantasy this lifetime is what one’s next lifetime will be. I see Halloween costumes as the manifestation — the “next lifetime” — of a fantasy, and that that fantasy is the direct reaction to recent life experiences and usually can speak to how a person perceives her reality.

So for a night I became a reflection of the energies that had been making up my perspective on life in the time preceding the choosing of the costume. Then I thought about my costumes of my three years at law school:

Halloween my 1L year: I was a ’70s vampire, with a huge ‘fro, sexy black Elvira gown, white face and blood dribbling out the sides of my mouth. I was a cold-blooded killer with a retro fashion sense.

My interpretation: I saw my life my 1L year as that of a vampire, the ultimate victim and oppressor tied neatly into one bloody, bloodless package. Being a newcomer at HLS, I experienced the usual destruction of self-esteem and introduction into the bloodthirsty world of moot court, the Socratic method and Thursday night bar reviews. The stress and the competitiveness of this first year was appropriately reflected by that image of a vampire — where I felt powerful on some level, but kind of bloodless and depressed, and full of repressed violence. I had little idea of what I wanted to do with my law degree when I finished, and my life before me stretched out as a pathway of interminable dread.

For my 2L year, I was a wife-beater. I wore my short ash blond wig, but flattened the curls down to look like a tousled man’s do. I sported a boy’s white tank top and men’s briefs, both appropriately stuffed to give me a belly and a huge package. I carried a belt and wore a menacing expression. Although not a killer, just a bad-tempered schmuck, I was still creepy, and although not sexy at all, my costume was, again, all about violence.

My interpretation: Having spent three years in between my first and second years meditating and doing psychic readings, I was no longer of the game but was making a determined effort to be in it. Moving within a completely linear system and attempting at the same time to hold onto a holistic perspective was intensely frustrating. I no longer felt like I was a bloodsucker or one whose blood was being sucked, but the struggle to reconcile my perspective with the strange rules regulating civil society was intensely frustrating. Thus, I was a wife-beater, or a beaten wife, trapped in duality and screaming to be freed from it.

This year, I was a fun-lovin’ socialite. I chewed gum. I was amiable. I laughed a lot. I jiggled my dog and my juicy ass as violently as I could without tripping in my rickety heels or making my wig fly off.

My interpretation: As happens with most people who are almost done with school, I have shopped around enough to know what I do and don’t want to do with my degree and therefore am no longer feeling violent. My peace of mind has to do with lots of communication and maybe playing with animals. Appropriately, I’ve also been reading a book whose author is advocating a revolution where everyone starts smiling for no reason.

Next, perhaps, I will look at my Thanksgiving dinners during my law school years and see how they reflect a growing appreciation for life through food.

Ah, life is good.

Playing political games with the dead


Paul Wellstone’s memorial service was held in his native Minnesota, but you could be forgiven for thinking it was a gathering of Philadelphia Eagles fans. After all, who else boos at a funeral?

Apparently, Democrats do. The party that once excoriated Richard Nixon for his win-at-all-costs ethic has lost its conscience in the depravity that comes from misconstruing the proper role of politics. Elite democrats have perverted their understanding of politics such that they treat the end of politics as politics, rather than as other, greater ends toward which politics should direct us. Principles no longer precede power for leaders of the Democratic Party.

The memorial service for the late senator was particularly tragic because Senator Wellstone deserved much praise. Out of respect, people should have taken time to genuinely reflect on a life well lived in the service of fellow man and country. Instead, while some of the mourners arrived with an appropriately reverential attitude, the event rapidly degenerated into naked political opportunism that appears to have ultimately cost Wellstone’s successor, former Vice President Walter Mondale, the election.

Underlying the Democrats’ opportunism is the view that politics is an end in itself. This view is particularly dangerous when coupled with the argument made by many Democrats that the government is responsible for every aspect of human existence. The argument goes like this: If the government does not regulate something, it condones it. In other words, the state encompasses the sum of human existence.

The world is full of good things — family, faith, friendship and community spring to mind as some of the more obvious. These things are desideratum, goods in themselves robust with all that makes life worth living. But if these goods were subsumed entirely to the political world, and the end of the political world were merely political victory, then we would cease appreciating family as family and instead embrace it as a set of raw power relationships that could be manipulated in pursuit of political victory. We would live in a hollow world where human aspiration was flattened to a single soulless common denominator and the best among us could apply themselves to nothing more constructive than the scrabble for power. This is the world in which many Democratic leaders have been living since the Clinton administration’s victory of politics over principle. A notable exception to that trend was Wellstone himself, who was unbendingly principled without regard to the cost to himself (or others).

In such a world, friendship would also lose that which makes it good. Friendship has immense value in itself, without regard for how a friend or the institution of friendship in general can help you achieve political superiority. But if you believe the point of everything is achieving power, you cannot appreciate a friend as a friend — your friend becomes a tool to be used in furthering your selfish end. This is the ultimate Kantian no-no: Treating people as means to an end is verboten.

Minnesota Democrats dishonored this principle when they booed colleagues of the late Senator Wellstone who turned out to mourn and show their respect. When Democratic leaders later demanded that Republicans both at the event and elsewhere in the country stop campaigning and abandon their policy principles in honor of Wellstone’s memory, they were again attempting to pervert the outpouring of respect and grief at the loss of the late senator. By using Wellstone’s corpse as a bludgeon, these Democrats dishonored his passing and revealed the paucity of their own lives. It is right to mourn the dead, but wrong to pretend to mourn in order to bend the nation’s sympathy toward one’s selfish goals.

Democrats could have enjoyed a huge sympathy bounce without so blatantly exploiting the death of Paul Wellstone, and they knew it. The viciousness directed at now-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and the other Republicans at the memorial service occurred because the Democrats involved could not think of other ways to act. These Democrats hold nothing sacred anymore; they do not know better than to use a memorial service as an opportunity to score political points. Everything for them is reduced to the pursuit of political points.

(As an unfortunate aside, I must point out that Republicans are not immune to this problem, but at the moment it still pervades the Democrats to a substantially greater extent.)

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), but it’s an important point. Politics exists to protect and facilitate the things we hold dear. Politics is a means to an end. Those who fail to grasp this fundamental truth are a threat to our democracy. Politicians who are impelled out of bed in the morning by the desire for power are exactly the kind of people we should fight like hell to keep out of power, whatever their political party.