“Harken” University’s unethical investments


In the last week, articles in twenty news outlets and a report released by the student organization HarvardWatch have detailed how Harvard University bailed out Harken Energy through a series of questionable transactions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the period when George W. Bush was a director of the company. These revelations demonstrate a need for disclosure, investigation, and reform.

In 1986, Harken Energy bought Bush’s failing oil company and made him a director and “consultant.” One month later, Harvard began investing heavily in Harken, ultimately becoming its largest shareholder and placing two directors on Harken’s seven-member board. Harvard’s directors held positions on the boards of entities managing Harvard’s endowment, and each held 10,000 shares in Harken, in clear violation of conflict of interest standards for nonprofits. Robert Stone, a member of the Harvard Corporation (Harvard’s executive governing board), was a prime mover in getting the University invested in Harken, and has longstanding ties to the Bushes. The other Corporation members at the time made virtually all their political contributions to Republicans.

In 1986, liquidity and solvency crises were driving Harken toward bankruptcy. Harken attempted a phony asset sale (the “Aloha” transaction reported in the press), but the SEC caught them. In May 1990, Harvard and another large shareholder lent Harken $46 million to keep the company afloat. This did not address the company’s liquidity problems, however, and Harken soon defaulted on its loan covenant with one of its two main banks. On Bush’s motion, the board voted unanimously to negotiate an off-the-books “joint venture,” between Harken and Harvard, similar to the partnerships Enron used to hide its true financial status from investors and creditors.

In November 1990, Harken and Harvard created the Harvard Anadarko Partnership (HAP). Harvard contributed $64.5 million, 91 percent of the investment, but accepted just 84 percent of HAP’s earnings. Harken contributed $6 million — assets valued at $26 million plus $20 million of debt and liabilities. Transparent only to Harken insiders, HAP deceptively brightened Harken’s balance sheet. Harken concealed $20 million in debt and liabilities, creating an appearance of solvency. By taking a diminished share of HAP’s earnings, paying Harken fees to run HAP, paying most of HAP’s operating expenses, and paying interest on debts that Harken had contributed to HAP, Harvard both funneled revenues to Harken and reduced Harken’s yearly expenses. By effectively transferring millions of dollars to Harken, Harvard addressed the company’s liquidity crisis.

Not surprisingly, HAP’s creation inflated Harken’s stock price, which rose to an all-time high. Harvard took advantage of this opportunity to sell $7.47 million in stock. Harvard later bought out Harken’s share at a generous price, and then sold HAP’s assets to Cabot Oil and Gas for $34.5 million, half of what Harvard and Harken had collectively invested initially. (The Cabot family has played a central role in managing Harvard’s finances for decades.)

While HAP appears to have followed accounting rules, the combination of the partnership’s creation and the stock sales raises serious questions about market manipulation. Given Harken’s flirtation with bankruptcy, the transfer of assets to a partnership controlled by its largest shareholder might raise issues of fraudulent conveyances or voidable preferences. We cannot know the answers without access to the HAP’s business records, and Harvard refuses to disclose any information about its dealings with Harken.

The possibility that Harvard broke the law, while troubling, is not really the heart of the matter. Even if Harvard did not violate the law, its willingness to throw good money after bad violates standards for nonprofit investors. Harvard’s investment in the HAP was at least twice the size of its original stake in Harken, and its loans to Harken also nearly doubled that stake. Harken was among the worst-performing companies in a high-risk industry. Harvard’s pumping of money into an already anomalous (if not bizarre) investment seems difficult to explain, and the Harvard Corporation owes us all an explanation.

Students are rightly calling for full disclosure, an independent investigation, and a public meeting with the Harvard Corporation, as well as development of an open investment policy and a more transparent and democratically accountable university governance structure. Whether Harvard’s bailout of Harken was politically motivated, or had some other reason behind it, President Summers is absolutely right when he talks about the central importance of transparency in financial transactions and corporate governance. The Harken transactions, the University’s investments in apartheid South Africa, and Harvard’s use of sweatshop labor to make its apparel can only happen in a culture of secrecy, a culture incompatible with the University’s professed commitment to accountability, honesty, integrity and democratic values.

Taking aim at moral relativism


The Washington metropolitan area, my once and future home, is under siege. Hopefully the murderer(s) wreaking havoc in the region will be dead or in custody by the time this goes to print. Given the resources devoted to this investigation, it seems likely that whoever is responsible will be apprehended soon. In the meantime, those not grieving the loss of loved ones are living in terror of innocuous everyday activities such as pumping gas and going to school.

The media, when not antagonizing Chief Moose and risking innocent lives by releasing information detrimental to an effective investigation, have largely settled on the theory that the killer is a conservative white male with a McVeigh-esque antipathy toward America. While this theory is entirely plausible, there are numerous other possibilities, perhaps the most chilling of which is that the murders and attempted murders are a diversionary tactic to keep area law enforcement occupied while some larger scheme is executed. In any scenario, however, the killer is a seriously flawed human being. There is no question that whoever is shooting these people is somehow broken and thus lacks or chooses to ignore the basic moral sense and compassion for others that proper human beings possess. The truth of this assumption will inevitably be proven with the killer’s capture. At that point consensus will evaporate.

Right now everyone is hoping for a quick resolution of the matter. However, should the killer be brought in alive, within a day the familiar whining voices will attempt to turn the situation on its head. We saw it on September 12, especially around Cambridge: The sickness and hatred of an individual or a small group are suddenly held up as examples of the evil America has wrought. Somehow we are supposed to feel guilty and responsible. The failings of a man who takes his pleasure in killing innocents somehow become our fault. Unless, of course, the killer does turn out to be a white neo-Nazi or something similar, in which case his failings will be identified as my fault. In any case, people will seek to externalize the killer’s problem rather than condemn him.

The moral idiocy of our society is not a new thing. While September 12 may stand out as the most outrageous instance of moral depravity and the inability of elitist intellectuals to tell right from wrong, the problem can be traced back at least to the mid-century American Stalinists and those who worked to stop them. While demagoguery plagued the argument, there is simply no doubt that one side was right and the other wrong. Yet Whittaker Chambers is still excoriated as a stooge for tyrants while Alger Hiss is venerated as a martyr. Hiss’s defenders fail to mention that he was incontrovertibly in league with a regime that happily slaughtered twenty million of its own citizens and consigned surviving dissidents to the icy embrace of the Gulag archipelago. That doesn’t even begin to address what the Soviets did to Czechoslovakia and other countries under their “protection.” It’s similar to the silence of the Fidel-chic crowd on the subject of Cubans forced at gunpoint to walk through minefields or any of the other known brutalities of that dictatorial state.

W.H. Auden predicted this decay in For the Time Being, where he wrote that “Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions and justice will be replaced by pity as the cardinal human virtue.” Too many Americans have abandoned a commitment to justice qua justice and turned to pity as their guiding light. In some circles it is provincial and uncool to condemn what is wrong: The only condemnation is reserved for those with the gall to condemn wrongdoers.

This backward thinking is ridiculous: It is certifiably true that it is right to condemn what is wrong. Compassion is good, but it is not compassionate to exonerate the guilty by blaming the innocent. Such thinking is both stupid and evil. When nineteen men choose to take several thousand lives through craven acts of terror, we should hate them for it and exact righteous vengeance on those who helped them do it while taking every necessary step to prevent related evils.

Similarly, when the sniper is caught, we need to remember that he has wilfully and deliberately extinguished at least nine lives and deserves to be punished. The sniper chose to do what he did. He was not driven to it by America, or capitalism, or anything else. We must make him accept responsibility for his actions, except in the unlikely event (given the methodical nature of the killings) that the sniper is exonerated by meeting our rigorous test of insanity. Shifting the blame to others does not justify this man’s murderous behavior, but it does highlight the moral bankruptcy into which America has descended.

Letters from Berkeley: Sex, drugs, alcohol and Chicken Little


In the story of Chicken Little, an acorn falls on the unfortunate fowl’s head.

“The sky is falling,” he cries, and, joined by Henny Penny and Goosey Loosey, he goes to tell the king of impending global disaster. But Foxy Loxy tricks them into his den and eats them.

The statement “don’t be a Chicken Little” offers a moral about not giving in to fear. At first glance, I have thought that this has been the attitude of most Americans since September 11, a wary business-as-usual that has seemed the only sane alternative to the kind of paranoia that triggers ritual suicides in burning bathtubs of gasoline, as happened in Cambodia early last month.

However, as people go on with their lives, it isn’t as if nothing has happened and business can really go on as usual. After all, three birds are now dead, and will they ever really know for sure that the sky isn’t going to fall? And when the king, who inherited his throne by blood and not by merit and is of questionable intelligence, gets all worked up about Foxy and his other tricky friends and wants to examine his den for tricky weapons, no one in the animal kingdom can feel quite as relaxed as before.

So at least in my observation, fear and survival continue to hang over us — this vision of impending global disaster goes on and on, and business as usual is tinged by a desperate undertone of Chicken Little-esque fear. The way I see this fear manifesting itself is in the drag of the economy and the tightness of the job market. One of my public interest interviewers told me how pleased he was that his schedule was actually full this year, as firms continue to lay off or freeze hiring (perhaps a phenomenon more obvious at schools other than Harvard). This weird survival vibration has taken hold of most people I know. With these underlying tones of apocalypse, it seems to me that what’s really important in life should be clearer — but the opposite has been the case.

I get caught up in worries too. School, career plans, everything is so stressful — and I’ve been suffering from major insomnia. Especially as every morning my cat opens my door, hops onto my bed, meows a few times, and punches me in the nose with a large white paw.

“Stop it!” I yell, rolling to turn my back to him. That usually ends it. But the repetition of this daily ritual has planted some seeds… and I have begun to wonder: What is he trying to tell me? With that, his simple demand for attention, or with his requests to be fed or let outside, or with the pleasure he gets from humping the huge stuffed gorilla that sits in my garage? What is the universe trying to tell me by sending me this furry white being to place his paw forcefully on my face?

Another strange event: I hosted a party this past weekend full of good food, free-flowing alcohol, a dance floor that was packed till 4 a.m., and an orgy in the backyard, somewhere in front of the storage sheds and behind the apple trees — the trees of original sin. A good time was had by all. What did this signify in the jigsaw puzzle of my existence?

Another thought that’s occurred to me: It’s interesting that answers to the question, “What would you do if this was your last day to live?” often involve copious amounts of sex, food and/or drugs. It’s a little bit different from carpe diem, which doesn’t have that element of desperation in its seizing of the day. When it’s the last, it seems to involve a gluttony of the senses that attempts to pack in enough stimulation to last through several swims through the River Lethe. “Business as usual” with fear undertones just becomes an excuse to deny the fear, something to hide in, and people just worry more about what they normally worry about — indulging in a gluttony of mind-numbing activity, as if it’s their last day to live.

So, what does it all mean? Well, probably, it means nothing, and the universe isn’t trying to tell me much either. But in my head, it all wants to come back to food and diddling the skittle, but in a carpe diem, not a “last day to live” vibration. It seems significant also that so many things taste like chicken. That’s what happens sometimes when the taste buds are surfeited. This column’s moral: golden means, equilibrium points, balancing acts — no need to go off the deep end in re-prioritizing when disastrous events occur, but also no need to stop making the game enjoyable.

Boston does barbecue


Good enough for a Southerner?

Venture beyond the friendly confines of Harvard, Porter and Davis Square on Mass. Ave, and you’ll find this gem of a BBQ joint with food that really hits the spot. Blue-Ribbon Bar-B-Q prides itself on slow roasting its meats at low temperatures over oak and hickory hardwoods, and the results speak volumes about their barbeque style.

To truly test any establishment offering barbeque, you have to bring a few Southerners along to put the place to the test – especially where, as here, the restaurant promises BBQ from so many different states. I brought my three favorite Texas A&M Aggies, along with two Oklahomans to see if the food at Blue-Ribbon could meet true Southerners’ high standards.

Designed to look like a diner straight out of the days of Elvis, the brightly lit and friendly restaurant offers an assortment of meats served up as a sandwich (white bread, baked beans, cole slaw, and homemade pickles for $5.50), on a platter (choice of two sides, cornbread and pickles for $8.95), or in bulk size ($10.95 per pint). Side dishes are also available for individual purchase in the half-pint ($1.95), pint ($3.95), or quart ($6.95). In addition, they have featured specials on a chalkboard that range from salmon to desserts like key lime pie.

You can’t go wrong by ordering the North Carolina pulled pork, with its tangy BBQ sauce offering a nice blend of slight sweetness and a mix of spices. The Kansas City burnt ends are even more impressive. With the juicy Texas sliced beef brisket, Blue-Ribbon adds a heavier BBQ sauce cooked with tomatoes. The combination works perfectly.

If you’re a fan of the natural meat flavor uninhibited by any sauce, then the hot open-faced brisket sandwich is your way to go. Stacked in between two pieces of white bread is a heaping pile of juicy, flavorful brisket. The red hot smoked sausage is tasty, but its relative mildness and unspectacular sauce made it less attractive than the other offerings. Regardless of which type of meat you order, you should notice how the natural flavors of the meat are retained through the Southern roadside barbequing style.

Blue-Ribbon also features Memphis dry-rubbed barbeque ribs ($9.95 for 1/3 slab, $11.95 for _ slab, and $19.95 for full slab), barbequed half chicken ($7.95), and Jamaican jerked half ($7.95) or whole chicken ($10.95). Although I wasn’t able to sample these items on this trip, given the superb results of the other meats, one could assume that the ribs and chicken would be just as satisfying.

For the adventurous, do-it-yourself types, there are a range of BBQ sauces available at the counter to mix and match to your dining pleasure. Ranging from habanero pepper sauce to Blue-Ribbon gold BBQ sauce, finding the right combination is a virtual certainty. However, for my buck, I enjoyed the meat and sauces served up by the staff just fine without having to add anything extra.

The side dishes are nice accompaniments that do not steal the show from the barbequed meats. Both the baked beans and the black-eyed peas are a nice change of flavor from the BBQ sauce. The mashed potatoes and collard greens are normal fare – not surprising, but appealing enough. Other side dish options include cole slaw, rice and beans and green beans. For those with truly large appetites, the dessert menu does not disappoint. The sweet potato pie ($2.50) provides an ideal ending to a fulfilling meal. You could also take a gander at the pecan pie or fruit cobbler ($2.50 each).

For those looking for a change of taste (and in my mind, an upgrade) from Redbones, pay a visit to Blue-Ribbon. If you’re a champion grill master and are just looking for the perfect sauce to complement your masterpiece, then Blue-Ribbon’s various types of barbeque sauce sold by the pint ($3.95) can help you out. Blue-Ribbon is also available to cater events and would prove to be an inviting and economical way to entice lethargic law students to attend organizational meetings. [Note to organizations everywhere: Three Aces Pizza is no longer going to cut it – ed.] After all, in the words of an Oklahoman in my party: “Not bad for a Yankee.”

Getting There

Vino & Veritas: Pouring pinot down the drain



Today’s grape, pinot noir, holds a reputation among winemakers for its fickleness. Other grapes such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and especially zinfandel, tend to produce consistent, reliably good wines. Pinot noir, on the other hand, can really vary from bottle to bottle and vintage to vintage. Personally, I have poured many bottles of pinot noir down the drain in my lifetime and, if you ever become a pinot devotee, so will you.

But do not let this detract you from buying and trying pinot noir. Great pinot noir can be exceptional. Wonderful ones I have enjoyed are highly drinkable, have seductive flavors like strawberry or raspberry, are often slightly sweet on the nose and mouth, and complement foods like game and duck marvelously. As a general rule, pinot noir tends to be lighter in color and body and less tannic than cabernet or merlot. Pinot noir also generally contains medium-to-high levels of acidity and similar levels of alcohol.

For the person initially trying pinot noir, I offer one piece of advice. Have a bottle of pinot noir the next time you are at a restaurant, particularly a French one. (If you are at a French restaurant, red Burgundy is wine made in the Burgundy region from the pinot noir grape. The French religiously classify wine by region and strictly condemn the practice of using anti-freeze in winemaking.) I make this point for two reasons. First, pinot noir goes exceptionally well with many different kinds of foods. I know one wine snob who believes that if you are ever at a dinner table and are selecting the bottle of wine to pair with everyone’s entree, your best bet is pinot noir. Secondly, the inconsistency in the quality of pinot noir should be controlled for somewhat by selecting a bottle that presumably has passed muster with the restaurateur.

1999 Givry 1er Cru Les Grand Prétons ($22): Speaking of wasting wine, we hope Duncan’s kitchen drain enjoyed this Burgundy more than we did. From initial whiff to finish, the wine was highly acidic and tart. Slightly tannic with hints of currant, leaves and sugar.

1999 Maya Sonoma Valley – Kunde Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir ($20): This bottle was much more enjoyable. A musty nose of citrus and tangerine flavors. On the palette, there were hints of strawberries and oranges. Initially sweet but finished bitterly.

Both wines were purchased at Harvard Provision Co. (NOT with a fake I.D.)


Since Mike took the opportunity last column to harp on an expression, “quarter of (some time o’clock),” which makes sense to everyone but him (I love ya, Mike, but it’s true), I have decided to seize the day and kvetch about mispronounced and misused words that make my skin crawl.

First and foremost is the mispronunciation of “nuclear.” Let’s all say it together: “NOO-KLEE-UR.” When President Bush says “NOOK-YOU-LUR,” I want to put my foot right through the television. Look at the word. There is only one “u” in it. Please do not add another.

Second, and only somewhat less annoying, is the common mispronunciation of “coupon.” The proper pronunciation is “KOO-PON,” not the vulgar “KYOO-PON.” I can think of no instance in the English language wherein the letters “cou” are pronounced “KYOO.” An automobile with two doors is a “KOOP,” not a “KYOOP.” Anyone ever heard of a “KYOO d’état?”

Third, never say “irregardless.” Rather, use “regardless” or “irrespective,” synonyms and fine words both. When you add the prefix “ir-” to “regardless” I believe you undo what you mean to say. Merriam-Webster online, however, disagrees and assures me that “irregardless” is indeed a word and is synonymous with “regardless” – but still counsels strongly against its use. Regardless, drop “irregardless.”

Fourth and finally, please be wary of the ubiquitously misused and sloppy “I could care less.” If you mean to say, “I don’t give two good hoots about X,” then say, “I couldn’t care less.” That contracted little “not” makes all the difference. If you insist on employing “I could care less,” then you’d better damn well qualify (or quantify) it. For instance: “I could care less, I suppose, but only about the Green Party.” A winning example, to be sure, but for blessed economy’s sake, stick with “I couldn’t care less.”

Of course, as regards the subject matter of this column, you probably couldn’t. Touché!

Making light of the law


Photo by Ezra Rosser/RECORD

Trial By Jury, an irresistible Gilbert & Sullivan musical, was originally scheduled to run for only a few weeks. But 127 years after it first debuted, the show is finally making its way to Harvard Law School tonight in the Ames Courtroom.

The show tells the story of Edwin, whose jilted sweetheart Angelina sues him for breach of promise when he starts to lose interest. Once he is hailed into court, various humorous hijinks ensue, with the usher falling in love with the plaintiff, Edwin begging the judge for a rather odd bargain, and the judge eventually falling for Angelina himself.

Everything done or sung in the show is ludicrous, especially the judge’s well-known ditty, “When First, My Friends, I Was Called To the Bar.” But underneath much of the humor lie many incisive bits of truth — just as the use of the legal setting highlights the often silly conventions of the legal system.

Sponsored by the Harvard Law School Drama Society, which has been producing plays (including the well-known Parody) for several decades, the show represents both a return to the stage for many 2L and 3L performers and an HLS debut for several 1Ls, including Rebecca Ingber, Ellen Ginsberg, Jeremy Blachman, Anne Fleming and Jeffrey Vardaro.

The show stars 2L Candace Modlin as Angelina (the plaintiff), who impresses with her voice and humorous interactions with the jury (led by 2L Joe Nuccio). Two-L Antonio Reynolds dazzles as a judge who is as funny as he is ignorant of the law, while 3L Chris Kolovos, as Edwin, demonstrates more of the vocal stylings he has brought to past performances, including the Law School Parody.

Students with short attention spans should also cheer Trial By Jury — the show only runs 45 minutes.

Banal Attraction


If you think The Rules of Attraction is a light-hearted teen comedy about the craziness of college life, you are sorely mistaken. Based on a novel by Bret Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho), The Rules of Attraction is a dark drama with a few very funny scenes.

The movie focuses around three main characters: Sean Bateman (perhaps American Psycho Patrick Bateman’s younger brother?) played by Dawson’s Creek’s James Van Der Beek, Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon from A Knight’s Tale) and Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder).

Sean is a drug-dealing emotional vampire who can’t remember the last time he had sex sober. He finds himself in love with Lauren, a virgin who motivates herself to avoid parties and sex by looking through a book of pictures of the effects of sexually transmitted diseases. Paul, Lauren’s ex-boyfriend, is desperate to be with Sean.

The movie starts off with a bang. And a rape. And an assault based on sexual orientation. The first scene of the movie, which is very difficult to watch, takes place at the college’s aptly-named End of the World Party. It highlights the self-destructive results of the characters’ desperation and desire for sex. Most of their problems center around sex, whether they want sex and can’t have it, can only have sex that they don’t really want, or have way more sex than can really be good for anybody.

Following similar themes as American Psycho, The Rules of Attraction is a social commentary showing how rarely people really know each other in a meaningful way. The moments of real honesty are so few and far between that they’re either extremely funny or incredibly sad.

One of the few differences between this movie and American Psycho is that here the sex, violence, nudity, porn, suicide attempts, masturbation, and drug use take place on a New England liberal arts college campus rather than on Wall Street. And, of course, this movie is lacking Christian Bale.

One highlight is that if you have a favorite twenty-something actor, he or she is probably in this movie. The cast includes Seventh Heaven’s Jessica Biel, Blue Crush’s Kate Bosworth, American Pie’s Thomas Ian Nicholas, Kip Pardue from Remember the Titans, and Undeclared’s Jay Baruchel. There are also several notable cameos, including Fred Savage, Swoosie Kurtz, Faye Dunaway, and Eric Stoltz (apparently taking a break from his other gig as the singer for Puddle of Mudd).

Throughout the movie, the director shows several scenes both forward and backward in an effort to illustrate that the end point of the movie, and really the plot in general, is not what matters. Instead, what is most interesting is what goes on in the character’s heads and how they interact as a result.

The ending is the ultimate confirmation of the emphasis on characters rather than storyline. It also shows that the ultimate purpose of the progression of the characters is for the edification of the viewer and not the characters themselves. In the end it certainly doesn’t appear that any of the characters are more self-aware than they started off.

By far the best scene of the movie is Russell Sams as Dick (not Richard) performing George Michael’s “Faith” in his hotel room with Paul before the two go to dinner with their mothers (Kurtz and Dunaway) completely drunk. The mothers struggle to stay composed while enduring Dick’s tirade about college life and sex despite the fact that they have merely replaced pot and cocaine with Prozac, painkillers and vodka Collins’. This scene alone may be worth the ten dollars, or at least the matinee price.

If you haven’t seen American Psycho, go see this movie or at least rent American Psycho. If you have seen it, The Rules of Attraction still may be a worthwhile watch for the comedic scenes and the still-meaningful social commentary.

A Tribute to Tim White


Celebrity tributes can be sometimes be awkward affairs. In an industry where part of the art of performance is the self-conscious act of making yourself the center of the apparent universe the moment you hit the stage, it can often seem disingenuous when rock stars attempt to humble themselves long enough to praise another person. When that person happens to have died, the atmospherics are all the more strained. One attempts to project an air of sobriety and respect, yet at the same time, a lot of money is changing hands and pop songs often make flippant eulogies. Squaring the circle and managing to produce an event that is not only appropriately reverent but also satisfyingly rocking is a challenge indeed.

For the most part, last week’s star-studded tribute to the late Billboard Magazine editor Timothy White at the FleetCenter accomplished just that. Featuring such adult contemporary stars as James Taylor, Sting, John Mellencamp, Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd), Don Henley, Sheryl Crow and Billy Joel (replaced by Jimmy Buffett and Brian Wilson at the sister show in New York), the show provided both a sensitive remembrance of one of rock journalism’s greatest names and, incidentally, an impressive romp through a catalogue of classic songs.

From the outset, the focus remained on White and his legacy. Considering the traditional antipathy between rock musicians and those who write about them (like the moment in Almost Famous where the Stillwater lead singer dubs the cub journalist “the enemy”), the mere fact that such a group of musicians would choose to forego their usual six-figure performance fees to celebrate a rock journalist is itself remarkable.

But White was no ordinary journalist. To begin with, White was more sensitive than most to the manner in which the recording industry often brutally exploits artists (it’s no accident that the night’s roster featured Crow and Henley, both key members of the Recording Artists Coalition), and his willingness to be a conscientious voice in the wilderness earned him a special respect among the people he covered. That being said, White was not of the same libertarian stripe as other notable critics like Lester Bangs — White’s columns at times challenged the validity of gangsta rap and often dealt as much in morality as in taste — a bold departure when one considers how truly aesthetic most music criticism essentially is. Whether or not you agreed with him, White was different, and over time this difference earned him the undying loyalty of at least those performers who took this opportunity to lament his passing.

Indeed, although a variety of short video clips, family photos and a special taped tribute by Bill Murray presented a warm and personal picture of Timothy White, the performers themselves offered the best sense of White’s personality. James Taylor began the night with a short address, and throughout the night each performer was preceded by a clip of themselves explaining how they knew White and announcing what songs they were going to play in his honor. Most played what they deemed to be “Tim’s favorite song of mine,” and Billy Joel even introduced a raucous performance of “Only the Good Die Young” by saying, “I’m not entirely sure this is appropriate, but I suspect Tim would have appreciated the irony.” Most, if not all performers, insisted that the crowd “rock out” because “Tim would have wanted it that way.”

Many of the performers seemed to take their own advice. The set began with a particularly touching performance by Roger Waters, who sang the Pink Floyd classics “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb” (with somewhat irrelevant vocal accompaniment by Don Henley) as well as a new composition that, although slightly overlong, was clearly heartfelt. Given his reputation for being somewhat difficult, and his long and stormy relationship with the Pink Floyd catalogue and legacy, to hear Waters humbly tackle two of his most enduring classics was a thrill.

The youngest one on an admittedly geriatric bill, Sheryl Crow was tentative on her recent hit “Soak Up the Sun,” but seemed to gain a little steam as she played “If It Makes You Happy.” She polished off the set with “Steve McQueen” a song which, although heavily borrowed from just about every Steve Miller song I can think of, still managed to engage the crowd. She was followed by James Taylor who, despite a somewhat soul-starved take on “Hound Dog,” recovered with a beautiful version of “Mexico,” and a glorious two-man lullaby with Sting. Taylor more than anyone imbued the event with a certain cuddly reverence, and in some ways his mild-mannered acoustic musings were the most naturally at home in the proceedings.

The incontestable highlight of the night, however, was Billy Joel’s passionate performance. Starting off with the self-consciously awkward gesture of playing “New York State of Mind” to an arena full of Bostonians, Joel alone seemed intent on making a real rock n’ roll show out of it all. Crashing through “Only the Good Die Young” and “It’s My Life,” Joel ended his set with the show’s only encore, a rousing solo performance of “The Piano Man,” accompanied by most of the near sellout crowd. The house band, largely composed of session musicians, was competent if a bit anonymous — their playing glazed the whole night with a certain middle-aged lite-rock radio professionalism that, in some moments, robbed the performances of vitality. The onus, therefore, was pretty much on each marquee performer to bring some punch to their material. Joel did that, others did not.

Don Henley was the night’s biggest disappointment. Sporting an abysmal haircut, Henley played a pacemaker safe version of “Boys of Summer,” and then unloaded an embarrassing cover of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up,” redeemed only by Sting’s timely arrival. For a guy whose primary claim to fame is his past as the drugged-out soft-country crooner for the Eagles, Henley’s vain attempts to be funky were grimly awkward. Sting, for his part, was sensational, offering a kinetic take on “Roxanne,” a lush version of “Fields of Gold,” and a somewhat speedy but faithful recreation of “Every Breath You Take.”

After a lengthy set break, the night ended with John Mellencamp, who replaced the house band with his own group who, for their part, were hellbent on being about three times as loud as the early lineup. The extra volume did add a certain intensity to such songs as “Paper in Fire,” and his closer “Little Pink Houses,” featuring Patty Smythe on vocals. Mellencamp also offered a bluesy, stripped-down version of “Small Town.” By the end of Mellencamp’s set, the crowd had thinned a little, but the obligatory ensemble encore played on as everyone poured back onstage (except, curiously, for Joel) to do a seemingly unrehearsed version of the old soul song “This Train,” and a halting take on Sly Stone’s “Everyday People.”

While the show’s deflated finale perhaps underscored some of the event’s musical warts, it’s certainly hard to complain too much about the evening’s collective greatest hits set. Detached from their own bands and thrown into a somewhat constricted format, the performers as a whole managed to make the event into a selfless tribute to White simply by showing up, cutting to the chase, and playing their most recognizable work. As an audience member, one couldn’t help but feel that you were sort of doing the same — like so many events of its kind, perhaps the historic value of White’s tribute supercedes even the performance itself. White was an amazing man, and the opportunity to watch some of the biggest names in musi
c pay their respects to him was a special experience in its own right.

Fenno: Interview season


Things couldn’t get much worse for the underdog, thought Fenno. Fenno reflected with horror that Harvard Law students choosing names for intramural sports teams forgo the opportunity to adopt cool mascots like “Law Dawgz,” “Section I Warriors,” and the as-yet-unused “Nerds on Film” to mock a certain RECORD “Opinion” regular and predict his defeat in the Ames Moot Court finals. Last week’s edition showed that relegating Fenno to the back page rendered him a Cassandra, leaving Mr. “Washington-bound Mickey” to ignore the negative lesson Cliff Ginn learned two weeks ago about what students don’t want to read in their free time. Instead, our unwitting Iphigenia forged ahead with yet another case comment masquerading as an editorial. Sure, there were some pretty hip references to The Lion King and Bush v. Gore along the way, but c’mon, even Chief Justice Rehnquist knows the Supremes are a ’60s girl group, not a court.

Reading such pedantry disguised as flights of dreamscape made Fenno’s spine tingle with flashbacks from Single White Female. A violently asthmatic wheeze outside his window interrupted Fenno’s chilling musings over the Law School rag. He looked down onto Mass. Ave. A white dwarf with an Afro was standing on the sidewalk, chanting the words of and holding a sign that read, “I’m So Smart and I’m So Funny. I’ll Tell Volokh If You Take My Milk Money.” He was wearing the same color bathrobe and slippers as Fenno. Fenno opened the window and leaned out to get a closer look.

“I’ll trade you a rookie Justice Breyer for a 1990 First Circuit David Souter!” called a voice over Fenno’s head. Fenno looked up to see Jared Kramer holding a shoebox two floors above. But before the terry-cloth hobbit on the street could say “You’re on, sucker!” he winced miserably and grabbed his knee just as the mild popping report of an air gun pierced the sound of traffic. Fenno followed the wounded gnome’s frizzy hair as it bobbed across the street. Someone was guffawing out of a window to Fenno’s right.

“Gee whiz, Lowell. You ruined a perfectly good exchange of associate justice cards. You owe me a Happy Meal!” Jared shouted down. “You probably don’t even have a permit for that BB gun.”

“Nerds!” bellowed Plotkin, beating a chest covered by a white t-shirt several sizes too small. Finding his neck caught between the window and ledge, he repeated this witty rebuttal to Jared’s complaint until Nikki came with a screwdriver to remove the window frame. Again.

Beginning to feel like a guest in a twisted version of Hollywood Squares, Fenno shook his head and closed the window against the October wind. It was time to get ready for his afternoon on-campus interviews. He looked in the mirror as he tied a red tie. “Harvard Law is corporate greed. Greed is good.”

Fenno had been preparing over the weekend by listening to Adam White’s Personal Interview Inspirations, available on tape through Lexis Law Publishing. “I am a corporate warrior. In spite of the glaring lack of opportunity to take Mergers & Acquisitions of Quasi-Multinational Real Estate Investment Trusts, I will still smite the poor and step on the throats of the disenfranchised. They will cry out to Alexa Shabecoff as I drink their blood. But all in vain.” Fenno popped in his fangs, put on his suit jacket, and marched out the door. That James guy in my Bankruptcy class, the one without a last name, he sure would be proud, Fenno thought.

“On-campus interviews” apparently means “off-campus interviews,” particularly when it starts to pour. Fenno wasn’t feeling so all-powerful when he arrived at the Charles half an hour later looking like a drowned rat with dress shoes shrink-wrapped to his feet. He shuffled to the elevator. Up on the ninth floor, Fenno squished by a reception area. John Doulamis was inside drinking mineral water and chatting with some recruiting people. Fenno popped his head in the door. “John, are you interviewing with Dewey Ballantine today?” Fenno asked.

“No. Not really,” John answered. “Actually, I don’t have any interviews today at all. But I came down anyway so I wouldn’t lose the schmooze vibe before flyout week.” He lowered his voice to a barely audible whisper: “I think I’m in the zone.”

Fenno arrived at the door of his interview. He knocked, heard an invitation to enter, and walked in. He blacked out.

When he came to, Fenno could hardly breathe. The air was thick, and he couldn’t see very well out of one eye. He was in a strange room with furniture that smelled too new, sitting across from a woman he’d never seen before. His one good eye told him she was dressed like Geraldine Ferraro. He had a cramp in his leg, and he was pretty sure something in his nose was not coloring entirely inside the lines. Beads of sweat were forming on his forehead. The woman in the vice presidential candidate’s outfit looked at a piece of paper she held in front of her and began speaking German. Fenno didn’t speak German, but he remembered claiming to somewhere, maybe even in writing. He nodded, smiled, and grunted agreeably. The woman slid a piece of graph paper across the table. On it was an intricately drawn maze. At the start arrow was a stick figure in a dunce cap. At the finish was a drawing of a treasure chest with €7B written across it. Geraldine took out the stopwatch from Chariots of Fire: “Starten zu!” she barked.

Twenty-five minutes later, Fenno emerged back onto the hallway. His ego had broken ribs, and he was still uncomfortably damp. Should’ve known better than to think I could ride out the poor job market in the Austrian business consulting industry, he thought. Why anyone would ever need differential calculus to “fertilize seeds of innovation within a stagnating managerial lateral hierarchy” was beyond him. And who’d ever heard of a number 1.67 pencil anyway?

Fenno was snapped out of this pathetic reverie by a vaguely familiar voice. He looked up to see Dean Sauer leaning casually against the wall. “Hey Fenno,” Dean repeated. “You interviewing at Kraus, Flugelhorn und Schtumper too?”

“I tried to,” Fenno replied. Dean was clutching something tightly in his hand. “Whatcha got there?” Fenno asked.

“Oh, this? Just two number 1.67 pencils. The OCS interview site said we should bring them. I ordered mine online from a Norwegian specialty pencil store last month.”

Fenno felt like he might be sick. “Hey, cheer up, Fenno. Here, take this. It’ll make you feel better.” Dean took Fenno’s wrist and placed something in his hand. Fenno looked down. It was a limited edition 1L Greg Lipper card, with complete statistics broken down by Socratic cold calls, volunteered answers, and Spontaneous Outbursts Nobody Needed to Hear (SONNH). Fenno felt much better indeed.

Fancy! Beantown’s finest restaurants


The Harvest during the day.
Photo by Ezra Rosser/RECORD
Perfection at The Rialto.
Photo by Ezra Rosser/RECORD

Until 1970, women could not enter the dining room of the venerable New England dining institution, Locke Ober. Today, a woman (Lydia Shire, one of Boston’s hottest celebrity chefs) runs the restaurant.

Shire’s takeover of Locke Ober exemplifies the changing nature of fine dining in Boston. It is still possible to experience wonderful renditions of Lobster Thermidor and Boston Cream Pie. But today the top restaurants of Cambridge and Boston are more likely to depart from classic New England fare, and instead showcase the influences of cultures that span the globe. When celebration is in the air, a wide array of spectacular dining options (often at spectacular prices) are readily available. While by no means a comprehensive list, the following restaurants offer some of the best opportunities to sample “new” New England cooking, and experience this evolution for yourself.

Three wonderful — and very different — dining options are in the immediate vicinity of Harvard Law School. Situated on the second floor of the Charles Hotel, Rialto offers some of the finest food in Cambridge. Chef Jody Adams, a past recipient of the prestigious James Beard Best Chef (Northeast) award, creates dishes that reveal their Spanish, French and Italian roots. Signature items include the Provencal-inspired soup de poissons, a slow roasted Long Island duck served with braised escarole and fingerling potatoes, and hot chocolate cream with bruleed bananas and cinnamon ice cream.

Across the street from North Hall, Chef Paul O’Connell masterfully melds French and Cuban influences to create unique creations at Chez Henri. While locals may pass many an evening eating his masterpiece Cubano sandwich and sipping mojitos at the bar, the restaurant’s dining room menu offers many excellent options. The steak frites, topped with a foie gras-cognac cream sauce, and the seared tuna accompanied by a shrimp tamale are standouts.

Tucked away in an alley between Brattle and Mt. Auburn streets, Harvest feels a bit more “clubby” than other Harvard Square options. Seafood lovers will delight in a seared Alaskan halibut accompanied by a pan roast of lobster, ramps, and tarragon while carnivores can choose between steak, rack of lamb, pheasant, veal, or Cornish game hen. Harvest is also famed for its Sunday brunch, including the griddled Maine lobster salad sandwich.

But fine dining in Cambridge is not limited to Harvard Square. Salts, a 45-seat Central Square establishment, is one of Cambridge’s hidden gems. Chef Steve Rosen’s menu is influenced by Eastern European traditions and changes seasonally. On a recent visit, a mixed greens salad topped with a warm walnut and goat cheese crepe was delicious. But the meat entrees are the true stars of Salts: The mixed grill of Neiman Ranch beef includes succulent short ribs and tender slices of filet, and the lamb loin, gently smoked in a tea base, is a unique treatment that highlights Rosen’s talents.

Next to the Kendall Square Cinema, the Blue Room feels casual but offers fantastic food in a funky setting. Sushi lovers will adore the No. 1 Tuna. This thick cut of ahi tuna, quickly seared on the outside, is certainly one of the best in the city. Cheese lovers will appreciate the “One Perfect Cheese” appetizer/dessert (a selection from the famed Formaggio’s cheese shop that changes nightly). The Blue Room also may offer the best brunch in the city. A multitude of creative dishes are served buffet style (with food constantly freshened by the busy line chefs). A recent brunch included chilled octopus salad, a flank steak with a spicy rub, avocado quesadillas, pancakes topped with sautéed bananas, and kahlua cheesecake. However, if you want bloody marys or mimosas, arrive for the afternoon seating (for the Blue Room is not exempt from Massachusetts’ stringent blue laws).

For many, L’Espalier and Aujourd’hui are the twin pillars of the Boston restaurant scene. Located in a three-story townhouse just steps from the Prudential Center, L’Espalier offers a brilliant fusion of French and New England cuisines. For a true splurge, try Chef Frank McClelland’s ever-changing degustation menu. Drawing on local ingredients, a representative tasting menu includes an artichoke and asparagus broth with a warm salad of Maine crabmeat, the sautéed liver of a spring lamb, dayboat halibut with a sunflower seed crust, filet served with gnocchi and sweetbreads, a cheese course and dessert selection (including a delectable molten centered chocolate lava cake).

It is hard to top Aujourd’hui, the restaurant of the Four Seasons. With window views overlooking the Public Garden, Aujourd’hui’s dining room simply exudes elegant sophistication. From tuna tartare with oscetra cavior to seared foie gras with beef short ribs to roasted lobster with crabmeat wontons to rack of venison with wheat berry pilaf, the food is exquisite. For the more budget conscious, the Bristol lounge downstairs offers up arguably the best cheeseburgers and martinis in Boston.

Several other restaurants in this part of the city deserve mention. Near Beacon Hill, Chef Barbara Lynch was the 2002 James Beard award recipient of the Best Chef (Northeast). Her No. 9 Park dishes out excellent fare steps from the State House. The menu changes seasonally, but past standout items include the steamed black bass with a truffle emulsion, a butter poached lobster, the crispy duck with a blood orange glaze, and the double rib lamb chop with white asparagus.

Another top restaurant, Radius, resides in the heart of Boston’s financial district, near South Station. True to the name, the dining room is a chic semicircle. Chef Michael Schlow’s specialties include escargot with potato gnocchi, New Zealand venison with chestnuts, and loin of pork with a truffle butter sauce.

Two wonderful downtown destinations are located in hotels. Appetizers at the Federalist, situated in the 15 Beacon hotel, include oyster tartare and carmalized sea scallops. Standout entrees include roasted black sea bass with porcini risotto fritters and pan seared tenderloin with a Dungeness crab stuffed mushroom. You can enjoy a self-described “esoteric cheese presentation,” or skip straight to desserts including a vanilla bean crème brulee. In the Meridien hotel, Julien offers some of the finest classic French cuisine in the city. Summer entrees included halibut with roasted tomato and a block olive crust and rack of lamb with tapenade. The Meridien is also well-known for its decadent chocolate buffet.

One should not overlook dining options in the hip South End. Drawing on French bistro influences, Hamersley’s Bistro is a South End institution. Gordon Hamersley is famed for his roast chicken (allegedly, it was one of Julia Child’s favorites), as well as other classics such as his grilled mushroom and garlic sandwich on country bread. Continuing the French bistro theme, Aquitaine offers a stylish interpretation. Mussel fans will enjoy this version cooked in Sancerre with shallots and thyme. Meat lovers will salivate over perhaps the best steak in the city: a filet au poivre topped with cognac cream.

Finally, two excellent restaurants are located a touch outside of Boston proper. If you visit Todd English’s flagship restaurant, Olives (in Charlestown), be prepared to wait… and wait… and wait. Olives does not accept reservations (except for parties of six or more), and throngs begin lining up outside at 4:45. If you don’t mind sipping a cocktail (or three) at the bar, Olives will not disappoint. True to its name, ri
ch black and green tapenades accompany excellent bread. The tuna tartare is divine. A column of tuna is tossed with a warm sesame dressing and surrounded by a thin strand of cucumber. Rock shrimp, hidden in the soft layers of tuna, provide a surprise both in texture and flavor. In addition, the roasted chicken may sound humble, but this moist version bursts with flavor and puts many of its competitors to shame. While portions are big, save room for dessert: the warm chocolate cake is worth the caloric ramifications.

If you’re a Food TV fan of Ming Tsai, it is worth a visit to Blue Ginger in Wellesley. While more inconsistent than other top Boston restaurants, Tsai’s interpretation of Asian fusion can produce divine results. Appetizers include tempura soft shell crab with a miso avocado puree and shitake and leek spring rolls with a three chile dipping sauce. Entrees include a Maine crab crusted halibut and a Long Island duck breast accompanied by an Asian duck confit.

At HLS, there will inevitably be times when studying a disastrous tort seems less interesting than studying a delectable tart. Fortunately, in these moments, you will find that Boston and Cambridge offer no shortage of wonderful dining destinations.

It’s George W., not Adolf


Having access to the New York Times on the web has been a true boon to my existence. With a few mouse clicks, I’m instantly linked to the finest sports section in the world while completely risk-free from staining my fingers and clothes with newsprint.

Occasionally, a headline from one of the less-important sections will grab my attention, and give me pause before I click to sports. Recently, I spotted a headline so offensive that I went right to the international news.

It read: “Bush-Hitler Remark Shows U.S. An Issue In German Election” and the accompanying article contained the following introductory lines: “The regional newspaper Schwäbisches Tagblatt said today that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s justice minister, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, had said: “Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It’s a classic tactic. It’s one that Hitler also used.” Her remarks were reportedly made on Sunday during a conversation with representatives of the trade union IG Metall. Evidently, the comments referred to Bush’s “tactics” concerning possible military action to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Daubler-Gmelin first attempted to clarify, then outright denied making the comment, though several witnesses have come forward saying they heard her utter the remark. Schroder subsequently apologized for any offense the “misunderstanding” may have caused.

Being a proud Democrat, I would not rank Bush high on my list of revered government officials, and I still fervently hope that he will be unceremoniously returned to the private sector in the next election. However, the fact remains that he is the president of my country, and while I don’t hesitate to be critical, I’m slightly more hesitant to stand for foreign criticism of George W. and the U.S. by implication. For anyone to make any sort of comparison of President Bush to Adolf Hitler would be offensive in and of itself.

Hitler’s Third Reich is the greatest evil that has ever been visited upon this world. He led the entire world into a bloody and merciless war that claimed countless lives and shattered entire nations. He masterminded the systematic extermination of millions of my fellow Jews simply because they were Jews. In a word, Hitler was a monster. Given the pure evil associated with Hitler and the Third Reich, it is incomprehensible that any rational individual could draw a comparison between him and any U.S. president. Claiming that the comparison was between their “tactics” does not mitigate the outrageousness of the remark. Unlike Hitler, the U.S. and President Bush are considering the ouster of a dangerous madman who may or may not possess weapons of mass destruction. Hitler successfully managed to convince an all-too-gullible German population that they were not to blame for their military defeat and unbearable living and economic conditions. Faced with abject misery brought about largely by a purely punitive peace treaty, Germans were more than willing to follow Hitler back to national prosperity, without regard for the millions who would perish along the way. While the U.S. is certainly not in the midst of a Golden Age of national prosperity, neither is it teetering on the brink of extermination. This country, like all nations today, is faced with many complex and maddening problems. However, the chances of a military dictator akin to Hitler assuming power are laughably minuscule.

The Germany of today owes a great debt of gratitude to the United States for its very existence. Had the U.S. and its allies acquiesced to the Soviets in the post-World War II era, Germany would have developed quite differently. Perhaps the current German government should check its own history before resorting to America bashing as a campaign ploy. Despite the astronomically small chances that this will occur, I would call for Ms. Daubler-Gmelin’s immediate resignation, as well as an admission and personal apology from the cabinet secretary for her inexplicable and outrageous defamation of our president.

The 1L Experience: Invasion of the suits


Everywhere we go now, we see people in suits. (And I don’t mean lawsuits. Sorry, not funny.) Two-Ls and 3Ls with three dozen interviews over six days, or six dozen interviews over three days, or ten dozen interviews over lunch tomorrow from noon until one. By all accounts, pretty much no one passes up the opportunity to at least try and get an offer from a corporate firm. Just to be safe, even if they know they don’t want to end up there. Because it’s just for one summer. Because it’s only a few years. Just until the loans are paid off. Only until I make partner. Just until I can retire. Only until the day that I die. It can’t be that bad. Everyone does it.

I’ve heard people try to explain why this happens — why people start law school dead-set against working for a big firm, but end up “selling out.” And, yes, I know there are lots of great reasons to go work for a firm, not least of which being to pay off student loans, but also because you can make good contacts, find some interesting work, give your relatives something to brag about (as if just going to Harvard Law School isn’t enough), and so forth. I’m sure we’ll get a big glossy brochure with all of these reasons (and pictures of happy, smiling, multiethnic men, women and domesticated animals) from every law firm in the country when it’s the appropriate time.

But aside from these good and justifiable reasons, I think it’s mostly about expectations. It seems like from the first day of orientation, there’s an expectation that everyone here will fit into a certain box: college major in something appropriately related to the study of law, had some sort of law or business-related job or internship — paralegal, management consultant, investment banker — and has a burning desire to use his or her law degree to either (a) help a specific set of people — the poor, children, foreigners, taxpayers, sports figures, or (b) make a lot of money. Or both.

And that’s The Box. “Where’d you go to school? What’d you do before you came here? What’s your future goal?”

“Harvard. I sold stock in management consulting firms to paralegals. And I want to help the poor children of professional soccer players pay taxes in Bolivia.” You’re in the box. Wonderful.

And I think it excites us to meet people on the fringes of the box: “Where are you from?”


“Canada? Wow, that’s cool!”

“And my dad is a Supreme Court Justice.” Perfect. You’re in the box.

But people too far out of the box don’t quite fit: “What did you do before you came here?”

“Juggled hoops of fire in the circus.” Not in the box. You’re too different. You don’t belong. And no one doesn’t want to belong. The box has a magnetic pull. It’s why everyone talks about his or her year at Oxford (and if I hear one more person force that into a conversation…. “Oh, wow. Those trees remind me of trees we had — when I was at Oxford,” or “I ate a turkey sandwich once — at Oxford,”) and no one talks about his interest in snorkeling. Or her comic book collection. Or his innermost thoughts and feelings. (Ooh, that’s too deep for a column trying to be funny. Sorry. I think I must have meant, “Or his favorite Beatle.”) We’re scared that if we reveal too much, we’ll put ourselves outside the box, and we won’t belong. And that honestly is pretty scary.

So I think that’s part of the reason why all of the 2Ls are dressed up in suits, going to fourteen dozen interviews in eight minutes, even if their hearts aren’t really in it. And why the deepest conversations in the Hark are about the weather, the Civ Pro reading and the utility of daylight savings time. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can make the box bigger. And find out the guy sitting next to us is from Canada. Or an amateur sumo wrestler. Or really a girl.

Columbia prof. discusses war on terror paranoia


Speaking to over 50 students and guests of Harvard Law School who had assembled for the first Saturday School Program of the academic year, Professor Patricia Williams of Columbia Law School talked about the war on terror and how race is being perceived after September 11. Her speech, which was partly a compilation of previous articles she wrote for The Nation, focused on fear and how it can lead to paranoia and a breakdown of protective barriers against injustice.

Williams urged her audience to reject the argument that terrorist suspects should not be given the best defense because, as some have argued, they will end up in Florida playing golf with O.J. Simpson. A good defense, she contended, is a way to combat abuses by the prosecution.

“Part of what I am afraid of in terms of how the war on terror is being perceived, or received, on a domestic level is it is very much joined with constructions and stereotypes we have about race,” Williams said. “If Eskimos have a hundred words for snow,” Williams said, “we have let bloom a thousand words for fear.”

Fear, Williams argued, can lead one to suspect someone who looks different or who is discussing a dubious subject. She referred to the brief detention of three men in Florida last month after a woman told authorities the men were making alarming comments, including statements about bringing something down. In fact, the men were talking about bringing a car down to Florida.

Williams said people’s uncertainty has led to new forms of fear that could ultimately provoke our worst totalitarian tendencies. “People know nothing, so they suspect everything,” she said. “Torture and extracted confessions are investments in the right to be all knowing. That certitude is the essence of totalitarianism.”

Following her speech, Williams fielded a question from Professor Charles Ogletree on the recent controversy surrounding allowing military recruiters on campus. Williams applauded Lambda’s efforts to sign up for JAG recruiting slots, adding that it was unfair that those who oppose discrimination can be viewed as anti-government or unpatriotic. “We have to bear in mind that the civil rights of disability, sexual orientation and women rest on the same foundation,” Williams said.

In an interview with The RECORD, Williams encouraged students to keep an optimistic perspective and remain critical thinkers. “I think people need to keep a sense of proportion,” she said. “This is not the worst of times.”

Patricia Williams received her law degree from HLS in 1975. She holds honorary degrees from Northeastern University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She served as visiting professor of women’s studies at Harvard, visiting professor of law at Stanford, and visiting scholar at Duke. Her books include The Alchemy of Race and Rights; The Rooster’s Egg; and Seeing A ColorBlind Future: The Paradox of Race.