Friday, June 18, 2010

Bang It Out

I sometimes listen to music on my headphones at work. Unfortunately, the headphones are plugged into my laptop, which has a surprisingly excellent pair of speakers. Meaning that if I accidentally yank the headphones (inadvertant arm movement, leaning back too quickly), then the hallways of this prestigious, white-shoe law firm is suddenly filled with sound of whatever metal/guitar riff I'm currently listening to.

This has happened twice now -- and both times it has been tremendously humiliating.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You Wish You Were Me

Dave Hoffman on the relative openness of US News Law School rankings:
A few weeks back, Bob Morse issued a stern warning to law school administrators out to game his rankings. In response to a problem created by “openness about our ranking model” Morse took a strong step in the direction of reform by…wait for it…threatening certain schools with punishment for gaming their employed-at-graduation statistic. For those who follow the rankings, this was a particularly galling and obnoxious post. The rankings model isn’t at all “open”: for most categories of concern, USNews engages in hidden manipulations of dubious value which make replicating the results quite difficult. See, e.g., LSAT percentile scoring, COLA adjustments; normalization, treatment of missing data, etc. Indeed, the rankings would likely fail the very low bar for openness and replication set by even a student-edited law journal, let alone a peer reviewed publication.

Oh, burn. Wait ....

(Emphasis is original, by the way)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dershowitz Tries To Knock Off Pro-Israel Congresswoman for not Hating Obama Enough

Back in September, I became aware that Joel Pollak, brother of Commentary contributor Noah Pollak, was going to challenge Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), on the grounds that the latter was insufficiently pro-Israel. It struck me then as an odd choice: Rep. Schakowsky has a well-known and well-deserved pro-Israel reputation stretching through her whole career. Not to mention Schakowksy represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district that agrees with her on near-every issue and, um, doesn't agree with Pollak or his brand of conservatism.

Nonethelss, Alan Dershowitz, either out of loyalty to a former student or a desire to shrink the definition of pro-Israel such that its adherents could fit into a Saskatoon synagogue, has decided to endorse Pollak. It won't really matter -- Schakowsky has never even dipped below 70% in any of her re-election fights -- but it is a sad commentary on Dershowitz, whose only apparent beef with Schakowsky is her alleged failure to "speak out" on alleged wrongs done by the Obama administration toward Israel.

In any event, J Street has risen to Rep. Schakowsky's defense. Good for them -- there are serious problems facing Israel, the US, and the world today, and we need serious people like Jan Schakowsky in Congress facing them. Now is not the time to elect some random political neophyte whose campaign alpha and omega is "Obama is teh suckz". And shame on Alan Dershowitz for electing to sacrifice his pro-Israel credibility so cheaply.

Haredi Protests Planned Over Israeli Desegregation Order

The Haredi Jewish community in Israel is planning to protest the enforcement of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling which would require they desegregate their schools (currently, Ashkenazi and Sepharidc Jewish students are kept apart in these ultra-religious academies). If the parents disobey the court order, they risk a two-week jail sentence for contempt of court.

Am I the only one who really isn't bothered at the prospect of a bunch of racists being thrown in jail for awhile by the Israeli government? Seriously, my sympathy for these blots on the holy name is very, very limited.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I saw Thurgood today with some folks from Covington. It was very good. Laurence Fishburne was spectacular in his role, and often times was laugh-out-loud funny. I can't recommend it highly enough.

The most interesting thing about the play was actually the audience, however. Anytime Marshall mentioned a historical name or fact (Homer Plessy, Japanese Internment, Douglas MacArthur), the audience gave a collective "mmm", as if to say, "yes, I remember that from 6th grade Social Studies." And whenever Marshall announced the achievement of some civil rights victory, the crowd broke out into applause. As I said to a friend, it felt very "U-S-A! U-S-A!" to me. Albeit not in a good way -- more as a way of externalizing ourselves from the "past" Marshall was speaking about. I'm very skeptical that, if Justice Marshall were alive today, he would support our efforts to externalize racism as something "past".

Monday, June 14, 2010

UC-Irvine Bans MSU Over Israeli Ambassador Disruption

Wow. The formal decision letter is here, detailing the various provisions of the UCI student code that the Muslim Student Union violated when it persistently disrupted a planned speech on campus being delivered by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. As a result, the university has suspended the MSU for one year. I'm not an expert on campus free speech issues, so I don't weigh in on the legal issues this undoubtedly raises, but I do think this is probably going to turn into a much bigger controversy.

Via the VC.


It seems like anytime someone gets inducted into the Hall of Fame (whatever sport), they give the same spiel. This is the greatest honor of my life. Nothing could ever compare to this. I'm without words. And then you have former lightweight boxer Danny "Little Red" Lopez (42-6, 39 KOs), on his induction yesterday:
"Getting inducted is a big honor, getting the ring and the whole shot," said Lopez, who fashioned a 42-6 record with 39 knockouts in a 10-year career. "I felt much better winning a fight in the ring, but this is comparable to it. Pretty close."

I love it. "This is a pretty nice feeling. Nothing like actually being in the ring and knocking people's skulls in, but you know, it's close."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Israeli Gaza Flotilla Probe Announced

It looks good to me (not that it will matter). The probe is being headed by a retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice, and includes members with both international law and military backgrounds. Two international "observers" (with unclear powers) will participate in the proceedings -- a Nobel Peace laureate from Ireland, and a military lawyer from Canada. The panel will have full authority to look into, among other things, the legality of the blockade writ large, the legality of the particular raid on the flotilla, particular questions about the rules of engagement applied to the flotilla operation and whether they'd been breached, the Goldstone commission and Israel's ability to investigate itself, and the behavior of the Turkish passengers on the flotilla and the IHH organization.

The panel "will be able to summon any person or organization to testify, or to give it information in some other fashion, on any issue it deems relevant," except that it can only access military files "directly relevant" to the operation, including those from a separate, internal IDF probe being conducted contemporaneously. It can, however, request additional inquiries if it finds the IDF probe insufficient. Finally, all statements given to the commission will not be admissible in any legal proceedings, to encourage candor.

Sounds like a pretty robust investigatory panel to me. But I still maintain it will mostly be irrelevant, because what people want out of their "investigation" is either an indictment or an exoneration (depending on their alignment). Well, that might not be totally fair -- I'd be surprised to see any significant protest from the pro-Israel folks if the country's own panel decided to excoriate the operation (this is purely a matter of relative credibility -- the same conclusions, reached in identical language, by an international body would be met with outrage). But if the panel mostly exonerates the Israeli behavior (and I suspect it will -- the legal and factual issues are simply too unclear to warrant broad-based condemnation), the anti-Israel crowd will pitch a fit no matter how independent the panel objectively was. And while it will claim that it's real objection is that an Israeli panel can't "investigate itself", I'm honestly doubtful they'd react much differently if an international panel reached the same conclusions in identical language (we'd just shift to complaints about the all-powerful Jewish Zionist Israel Lobby tainting the commission).

But that's all counterfactual. The point is, there is a panel now, it looks pretty robust and independent, and it will issue a report at some point. And my conjecture is that this report will have virtually no bearing on anything.

UPDATE: Ha'aretz's editorial doesn't seem to think this panel is that impressive at all. But I'm a little confused -- the editorial says the panel has no powers at all, but the article seems to make clear that it has significant subpoena power.

"International Standards"

The refrain about the Israeli probe of the Gaza flotilla incident is that it must conform to "international standards". And recently, I've been curious: What are "international standards"? Do they refer to anything specific? Or is it kind of like "international human rights standards", where "international" is deployed less for any substantive content, and more to piggyback on the fuzzy, cosmopolitan cadences of the word "international"?

Everything I've seen of international legal investigations, after all, tends to show they really don't have very high standards at all. Most war crimes tribunals, for example, are adjudged failures unless they secure convictions of high-ranking accused parties -- the "standard" is "guilty until proven guilty". There aren't particularly strong rule of law norms at the international level, there isn't a deep basis of precedent which acts as constraints against politicization, and there isn't a broad-based acceptance of the legitimacy of the international bodies to act as adjudicators. It makes the particular choice of rhetoric very, very interesting to me.