[March 21, 2020] Sabbatical update: For obvious reasons, I am home, and not in Africa. Thanks to my wife who booked my return journey from Windhoek to Boston. Stay tuned for a return to normalcy. Meanwhile, #QuarantineLife.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Political correctness continues to threaten academic freedom. But if it's a martyr you want, don't look at me.

When my daughter was a high school senior, she and my wife visited Sarah Lawrence College in New York.  My wife and I are keen on liberal-arts education, so we might have pushed Sarah Lawrence a bit as an option—even while I might have dropped the offhand reference to flower power and love beads.  Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is famous for its left-wing political activism.  It has McCarthyist accusations of communist loyalties to its historical credit.

Siegel Student Center at Sarah Lawrence College (CC BY 3.0 by SaidieLou)
In the end, our daughter did not care for Sarah Lawrence.  A testament to her maturity, I think, she found that the school's method of individualized courses of study and its loose, seminar-like classroom experiences, modeled on the British tutorial style, did not suit her learning style and needs at age 18.  We agreed, and she is now happy elsewhere.  That's not to deny that Sarah Lawrence is pedagogically innovative in a way that beautifully complements the needs of many young adults and fosters creative genius.  After all, one Sarah Lawrence alumnus turned into J.J. Abrams.

However, from what I heard at the New England Political Science Association annual meeting's lunch program on Saturday, April 27, the flower power and love beads that I teased about might in fact be in desperately short supply at the Sarah Lawrence College of today.  After joking about being uncomfortable, as a Sarah Lawrence professor, standing at a lectern on a podium, Samuel Abrams shared his experience and research into ideologically driven, doctrinaire oversight of faculty and classrooms at Sarah Lawrence and elsewhere.

You can read more about Abrams's experience in recent coverage at the National Review, in Inside Higher Ed, and in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and in his own words in The New York Times in October 2018.  Abrams is an AEI scholar, which I guess makes him a radical conservative relative to famously lefty Sarah Lawrence, though plenty of partisan right wingers I'm sure would beg to differ over the sufficiency of his conservative fervor.

"We have a problem in higher education," Abrams said to NEPSA in Portland, Maine.  We, academics, need to ensure that the university remains free of viewpoint discrimination and a forum hospitable to robust "dialog and discourse," he said.

It's not exactly news that the ivory tower in America has been captured by a dogmatic partisan ideology that is oddly blind to classical liberal values such as freedom of thought and speech.  But to see and hear Abrams telling of his experiences live was chilling.  He collects Quechua art, he said, because he appreciates it, but multiple deans challenged the display of works in his office as cultural misappropriation.  For his encouragement of viewpoint diversity in the classroom, he has been called "racist," "bigoted," "homophobic," and, ironically, "anti-Semitic," he said.  His young son has been threatened.  Now deans are asking to review his class content in advance.

This is not hateful rhetoric derived from right-wing demagoguery.  To be sure, there's plenty of that to go around.  But on this occasion, these are the words and tactics of the left, the purportedly hate speech-loathing, ideological font of the civil rights movement.  I have no patience for this rhetoric, wherever, whatever it comes from.

Especially those of us with tenure must resist this suppressive, oppressive group-think, from right or left, Abrams declared.

How?  For a good while now, tenure has been exposed as a largely symbolic and legally insignificant barrier to adverse job action.*  The tenure contract is only as good as the lawyer you can afford whilst unemployed.  Then where the rubber meets the road, courts defer to universities to construe "cause" for termination in the tenure contract, absent any clear constitutional backing for the notion of academic freedom.  My work with the faculty union at UMass Dartmouth has shown me beyond a shadow of a doubt (even pre-Janus) that the union lacks any real bargaining strength.  When push comes to shove, the vast majority of faculty are not really willing to make any personal sacrifice for better working conditions, much less to stand on principle.  And the university knows it.

Maybe I'm no better.  Knowing the score, knowing that academia already has ceded the battle for intellectual freedom, I discourage classroom dialog over hot-button issues. I admire Abrams.  But I have a daughter who's trying to pay her way through American higher ed.  Her economic security—and the paycheck that makes it possible—has got to be my top priority.



*For collateral misgivings about the scope of tenure protection, see also my writing in JC&UL in 2010, which I presented at an AAUP conference.  Stanley Fish's more recent ruminations in Versions of Academic Freedom (2014) also ponder the scope of academic freedom relative to the professor's job—though he doesn't cite me.  JS.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Poli sci panels span U.S. con law, Tunisian Arab Spring, Japanese ag reg, Chinese investment in Africa

On the final day of the annual meeting of the New England Political Science Association, Saturday, April 27, I was treated to more intriguing papers and especially enriching discussion on constitutional law with co-panelists and discussants in the Public Law Section.  For the time being, I'm skipping presentation of my own work with Polish attorney Gaspar Kot—and my thanks to Kevin McGravey, Merrimack College, for his thought-provoking feedback—and sharing highlights of colleagues' work.

Right to education.  A common theme on our late-morning panel was probing the line between civil rights as passive protections and civil rights as affirmative entitlement.  Michael Paris, College of Staten Island CUNY, is working on a book that will consider the problem of race consciousness/race blindness relative to the right to education.  That's the same lately embattled right that rests at the heart of the federal court claim to civics education pending against the State of Rhode Island; the Government filed its motion to dismiss a scant few weeks ago.  Compare A.C. v. Raimondo, No. 1:18-cv-00645 (D.R.I. complaint filed Nov. 28, 2018) with Sheff v. O'Neill, 678 A.2d 1267 (Conn. 1996) (holding, 4-3, state bound by affirmative duty to provide equal opportunity of access to education for Connecticut schoolchildren).

U.S. Supreme Court in politics.  Kyle Morgan, Rutgers University, has coded, on various bases, no fewer than 11,000 U.S. congressional press releases about U.S. Supreme Court decisions.  He reports that this feat has caused more than one laptop crash.  Morgan is prepared to demonstrate that the way Republicans and Democrats frame disapproval of Supreme Court rulings differs fundamentally.  In short, Republicans bemoan the Court as anti-majoritarian, while Democrats frown on perceived abuses of democratic process.  As a result, the two sides talk about Court rulings without actually talking to each other in comparable language.  Morgan promises that his subsequent work will look at how the two sides might be brought together, that is, whether they can be made to care about the other's perspective.

This 1917 Louisiana poll tax receipt (public domain) well post-dates the 1870
15th Amendment.
'Resistant compliance' under the 14th and 15th Amendments.  My runaway favorite paper of the morning came from Lauren Foley, Western Michigan University, who is studying what she has termed "resistant compliance" with constitutional law.   That's when an actor complies with the law but takes a course of action that undermines its implementation—maybe openly, maybe quietly; maybe intentionally, maybe carelessly.  In this piece of her work, Foley compares white supremacist resistant compliance with the 15th Amendment, specifically the use of devices such as poll taxes and literacy tests to undermine black access to the polls while technically complying with the law, with University of Michigan resistant compliance with the state affirmative-action ban in an effort to prioritize diversity while without focusing on race.

Take a second to think that over.  "There are many reasons not to equate literacy tests with affirmative action," Foley conceded in her paper.  Motive matters, I thought.  But I admit, by the end of it, she had me.  Foley's interest is not in the policy priorities, no matter whether "revered or reviled," she wrote, but in the tools of resistant compliance.  Her comparison in that vein is not only apt, but illuminating.  Foley's work is informed by anonymous sources within Michigan higher ed and casts an unfamiliar light on how admissions officials have used technology to approach the diversity problem.  Those evidentiary revelations alone have the makings of an intriguing book.

Protesters march on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in downtown Tunis, angry
over unemployment, rising prices and corruption, January 14, 2011
(VOA photo by L. Bryant).
Tunisia's Arab Spring.  In the early morning hour, I hit a comparative session on Asia and Africa and learned a great deal from and Ann Waldemar, University of Bridgeport, and Nicole L. Freiner, Bryant University.  Waldemar is investigating the unusual success of the Arab Apring in Tunisia (home of RightsCon 2019), in contrast with its MENA neighbors (at least to date).  (See James M. Dorsey writing on Libya and Egypt just Saturday.)  Especially interesting from a comparative-law perspective, incorporation of Islamic law into the new Tunisian regime has been a piece of the puzzle in public acceptance, Waldemar reports.

Rice law and policy.  Freiner is investigating the surprisingly compelling story of rice in Japan, or, more broadly, the development and regulation of agriculture relative to priorities as far-ranging as GMOs, public health, and foreign development.  She had some fantastically illustrative visual from the rice fields, and her research has been on the ground, talking with farmers.  Her new book from Palgrave is Rice and Agricultural Policies in Japan: The Loss of a Traditional Lifestyle (2019).  (Law school programs on food law and regulation, take note: Freiner would be a great guest to bring in from Ph.D. world, and U.S. food law and policy studies could benefit from an infusion of eastern comparativism.  Freiner is a neighbor of mine from Barrington, R.I., so invite me, too, and I'll drive.)

Chinese legitimacy in Africa.  In the afternoon, Drake Long, Georgetown University, talked about China in Africa.  For his master's work, he's taking a deep dive into China's vigorous strategy for international legitimacy, countering a historic deficit in international communications.

China's Belt and Road Initiative (CC BY-SA 3.0 by Tart)
Perhaps needless to say, this move coincides with a trend of waning U.S. influence, or "crisis of U.S. legitimacy."  East Asia has been circumspect of Chinese influence, Long explains, but Africa has been receptive.  Long has traced the history of Sino-African relations from the 1940s to China's post-Mao economic reconstruction, to Angola oil investment, to Xi Jinping's pledge of tens of billions of dollars to African development amid the Belt and Road Initiative.  Belt and Road will cost $900bn according to China, Long says, or from $1tn to $8tn according to observers.  The ties to Africa meanwhile multiply.  For example, more Anglophone African students now go to China than to the United States or United Kingdom.

Does this mean an inevitable careening arrival at Chinese hegemony?  Well, there is an enduring debate within in China, Long explains, in trying to sell African development as worthwhile relative to unmet social and economic needs at home.  Whereas Americans will sign up for the foreign inculcation of democracy, no exceptionalist ethos so clearly dominates Chinese popular opinion.  Recent maneuvering within Chinese party leadership and propaganda machinery suggest awareness of this domestic ideological deficit and emerging strategies to address it.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Poli sci papers embrace power plant implosion, populist revolution, and constitutional convention

Here are a few of my favorite gleanings from yesterday's day one of the 2019 annual meeting of the New England Political Science Association in Portland, Maine, April 26-27, kicking off with the Brayton Point tower implosion this morning, Saturday, April 27.




The Brayton Point cooling towers are no more
(CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimaster97commons).
Imploded towers invite study of environmental law, policy, and urban aesthetics

Professor Aaron Ley, on the faculty at URI Political Science and also a town council member in Bristol, R.I., is working at the point where environmental law and policy meet public aesthetics.

After presenting on Friday, April 25, Ley left NEPSA to get back to the Massachusetts South Coast and witness the implosion Saturday morning, April 26, of the cooling towers at Brayton Point.  The towers have become a defining feature of the skyline in the region, so their absence in the vicinity of Fall River, Mass., and eastern Rhode Island will be an adjustment for locals (me included).  Though oft invoked as a symbol of adverse environmental impact, Ley explained at NEPSA, the towers functioned actually to mitigate the impact of the coal-fired power plant they grace, because they cooled water before it was released back into the Taunton River, sparing fish and their eggs from destructive warm water.

Ley is working interdisciplinarily with colleagues Bryce DuBois, lecturer at the Rhode Island School of Design, and Katherine LaCasse, in psychology at Rhode Island College, to complete survey and conventional research into public perceptions of urban spaces relative to environmental law and policy.  At NEPSA, Ley detailed the fascinating history of policing pollution in American waterways, from riverkeepers back to bounties on the 19th-century Hudson.


Are we living in Google and Facebook 'company towns'?
They have courts now


Professor Kevin McGravey at Merrimack College is collecting and analyzing social media cases to see whether the First Amendment public forum doctrine still has some vitality in deciding these disputes, such as the President's ability to mute or block Twitter users.  See Knight First Amendment Inst. v. Trump, 302 F. Supp. 3d 541 (S.D.N.Y. 2018) (holding President's blocking of users on Twitter violated First Amendment requirement of viewpoint neutrality; now on appeal to Second Circuit). Cf. Packingham v. North Carolina (U.S. 2017) (holding social media restriction on registered sex offender violated First Amendment.)

The Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, pictured here after WWI, owned the
Chickasaw, Ala., company town at issue in Marsh v. Alabama after WWII.
From Destroyer History Foundation.
McGravey thinks that the old company town case of Marsh v. Alabama (U.S. 1945) is relevant.  He concedes that the Marsh analogy to a social media platform was rejected by the court in Prager University v. Google, LLC, No. 17-CV-06064-LHK, 2018 WL 1471939 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (now on appeal to Ninth Circuit), in which the court refused to intervene in YouTube classifications and restrictions of PragerU's conservative political videos.  (See Eric Goldman's skepticism of the Marsh theory.)  But McGravey disagrees on a number of grounds, including the exclusivity of certain social media platforms as access avenues to public officials.

A company-town analogy doesn't get all the way to where we should be, McGravey admits, but the public forum doctrine might ought be reformed and extended to achieve worthwhile policy goals such as viewpoint neutrality on Facebook.  Still sounds like a stretch?  Well, consider, Mark F. Walsh in the latest ABA Journal reports on Facebook's plans to create a quasi-judicial appellate body to hear free speech claims.  Google already is adjudicating—internally and not transparently—right-to-erasure claims at the bidding of European data protection authorities.  Is that the town hall bell of the company town I hear?


Federalism panel spans Rehnquist Court, religious freedom,
and the 1825 Constitutional Convention that never was


A smattering of views from a panel on federalism and the administrative state: 
  • Christopher McMillion, Oklahoma Baptist University, is looking at the deep underpinnings of the "Rehnquist revolution" in federalism.  It's not about conservative politics, nor about federal power per se, he explained.  Rather, it's about protecting individual liberties—and actually the same kind of force can be witnessed in 10th-Amendment state jealousy of local officials' prerogatives relative to federal immigration enforcement.  
  • Beau Breslin, Skidmore College, is working on a book on the constitutional conventions the United States has never had.  Surely Article V of the U.S. Constitution contemplated conventions with some periodicity.  What if we had had one about every human lifespan?  An 1825 Constitution probably would have opened with a lengthy declaration of rights and would have created an explicit voting franchise for white landholders, Breslin theorizes.  Oh, and Madison would have been so peeved that he sat out the Second Convention.  What would have been the implications in U.S. history for the Constitution thusly revised?  What would the Constitution look like after a 2022 convention?  Breslin examines these questions in part with reference to the real evidence of evolving state constitutions.
  • Maine Gov. Baxter with Irish Setter Garry Owen
    (public domain)
    James Stoner, Louisiana State University, exposed the thinly veiled nuance of religious freedom questions in the United States, from Employment Division v. Smith (U.S. 1990) to present.  The courts have looked the other way from legislative prayer, for example, and for that matter from the intertwining of government and religious practice since the days of George Washington himself.  He concludes that the judiciary is ultimately not the best forum for resolution of debate over religion in American public life.
  • Sean Beienburg, Arizona State University, is researching the curious political journey of 1921-1925 Maine Governor Percival Baxter (namesake of Maine's beautiful Baxter State Park).  Republican Baxter advocated against the Ku Klux Klan at a time the Klan was making inroads with Maine Republicans.  He also staked out the political territory that would become Republicans' 20th-century economic libertarianism.  I note that Baxter was also an animal rights advocate before there was such a thing, and Maine's beautiful Baxter State Park is named for him.


Populist revolution and American electoral politics
are both about more than red versus blue


I moderated and discussed on an afternoon panel with three fantastic papers.
  • Erik Cleven, Christopher Galdieri, and Ashley Motta of Saint Anselm College are studying "down-ballot roll-off," when voters stop voting as they move down the ballot from "US Senator" to "Town Dogcatcher," or, really, "Register of Probate."  They set out to see whether there is merit in criticisms that voting college students dilute local electoral power because college students aren't interested in local races.  That turns out not to be true—not entirely true, anyway.  Looking at New Hampshire data, they found that new voters in a jurisdiction are responsible for down-ballot roll-off, and college students might just be part of that.  Other correlations arise with low education and lack of partisan tags to indicate party affiliation.  I suspect that an underlying cause is low information, a problem that dovetails with my own interest in transparency and affirmative disclosures of information to correct democratic deficit in developing political systems.
  • The "heartland-coastland" divide is more complicated than it seems and not
    merely an expression of partisan sympathies, R.I. political scientists June
    Speakman and Matthew Ulricksen show in new research.
  • Two papers were strikingly complementary.  Isaac Effner, Brown University, took the normative lens off of "populism" to recount how a populist labor movement effected the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike and contributed dramatically to the evolution of organized American labor and 20th-century norms for the protection of American (and for that matter global) workers.  Don't be too quick to judge populism in scoffing at frustrated voters who support Trump, is the lesson, because populism per se can be a force for the vital expression of human rights, notwithstanding a temporary flirtation with demagoguery along the way.  Effner notes that similar populist motivations animated support in the last election for both Donald J. Trump and Bernie Sanders.
  • And there comes to bear the remarkable work of Matthew Ulricksen, Community College of Rhode Island, and June Speakman, Roger Williams University and a representative in the Rhode Island legislature and former member of my Town Council in Barrington, R.I.  Ulricksen and Speakman showed some stunning maps of voting patterns in Rhode Island in the last election—I'd like to share, but they're not copyright-clear for my reuse; see the New York Times results.  Suffice to say the electoral maps reveal a deep divide in what looks like what Speakman and Ulricksen call a "heartland-coastland" divide, the former, Rhode Island's interior, Trump red, and the latter, in the salt air, Clinton blue.  Problem is, a number of data sets about who these voters are—wealth, ethnic identity, even partisan affiliation—do not actually bear out the divide.  What does?  Spoiler alert: population density.  What's more, because there is correlation with population density and not partisan loyalty, the heartland proves as receptive to Bernie Sanders's message as to Donald Trump's.  Speakman and Ulricksen identify one factor that explains voter behavior across the board: being "mad as hell."  The research leaves off there, but implications and questions abound for what will make an effective political movement in the future to capture increasingly alienated voters—and what conditions might trigger a populist revolution analogous to the 1934 general strike, or something bigger.

The annual meeting of the New England Political Science Association wraps up today, when I'll be presenting some findings on access to information and social and economic development in eastern Europe.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Claim to Facebook fortune dismissed in Mass. appeal

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals Wednesday affirmed dismissal in tort, contract, and equity claims by a software developer against principals behind Facebook-predecessor company ConnectU.

The Winklevosses (CC BY-SA 2.0 cellanr)
Wayne Chang (commencement address at UMass Amherst in 2016) alleged that he was entitled to a some portion of the $65m in cash and stock received by ConnectU's twin brothers and "bitcoin billionaires" Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in settlement with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.  That mediated settlement ended litigation in California and Massachusetts in 2008; Chang initiated the instant action in 2009.  Bringing the case to a close at last, the Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed with the lower court that Chang had severed business ties with the Winklevosses before they entered settlement negotiations with Zuckerberg.  The court also affirmed award to the Winklevosses of $30,000 in costs.

The case is Chang v. Winklevoss, No. AC 18-P-329 (Mass. Ct. App. Apr. 24, 2019).

Friday, April 12, 2019

Right of publicity protects personality, not Warren-Brandeis privacy, explains new work among four by UMass Law faculty

Four recent and compelling publications from my colleagues at UMass Law examine privacy and the right of publicity, LGBTQ civil rights, legal pedagogy, and law librarianship in public service.

Prof. Marlan
Professor Dustin Marlan has done the hard work of building the philosophical foundation for a personality-based right of publicity, disentangled from Warren-Brandeis privacy.  "Unmasking the Right of Publicity" is available on SSRN and forthcoming in the Hastings Law Journal.

This Article examines the potential influence of psychoanalytic thought on the conception of publicity as a right distinct from privacy.
In the landmark case of Haelan Laboratories v. Topps Chewing Gum, Judge Jerome Frank articulated the modern right of publicity. The right is now most often seen to protect the strictly commercial value of one’s “persona”—the Latin-derived word originally meaning the mask of an actor. Among other criticisms, the right of publicity is frequently accused of lacking a coherent justification, permitting only economic redress against public harms to the persona, and stripping away individual identity by allowing for an alienable, proprietary right in one’s personality. Why might Judge Frank have been motivated to create a transferable intellectual property right in the monetary value of one’s persona distinct from the psychic harm to feelings, emotions, and dignity protected under the rubric of privacy?

Judge Frank was a leading figure in the American legal realist movement known for his unique and controversial “psychoanalysis of certain legal positions” through seminal works including Law and the Modern Mind, Why Not a Clinical Lawyer-School?, and Courts on Trial. His work drew heavily on the ideas of psychoanalytic thinkers, like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, to describe the distorting effects of infantile and unconscious wishes and fantasies on the decision-making process of legal actors and judges. For Judge Frank, the psychoanalytic interplay between dual parts of the personality supported the realist interpretation of lawmaking as a highly subjective and indeterminate activity. Indeed, though Judge Frank provided little rationale for articulating a personality right separate from privacy in Haelan, he had given a great deal of attention to the personality in his scholarly works.

In the spirit of Judge Frank’s psychoanalytic jurisprudence, this Article suggests that the right of publicity’s aim, apart from the personal right to privacy, may be understood through the psychoanalytic conception of the personality—one divided into public and private spheres. In the psychological sense, the term persona, or “false self,” refers to an individual’s social facade or front that reflects the role in life the individual is playing. That is, as a metaphor for the actor and their mask, the persona is used to indicate the public face of an individual, i.e., the image one presents to others for social or economic advantage, as contrasted with their feelings, emotions, and subjective interpretations of reality anchored in their private “true self.”

However, the law’s continued reliance on a dualistic metaphor of the personality—i.e., divided sharply into inner (private) and outer (public) subparts—appears misguided amidst a growing technology, internet, and social media-driven need for interwoven privacy and publicity rights. The Article thus concludes by examining intersubjective personality theory, which might provide a useful conceptual update in its view of the personality as contextual, relational, and dependent on social interaction—rather than divided sharply between the public and private.
Prof. Ho
Professor Jeremiah Ho has authored a piece building on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case (U.S. 2018) and continuing his important work in LGBTQ civil rights.  "Queer Sacrifice in Masterpiece Cakeshop" is available on SSRN and forthcoming in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism.  Here is the abstract:

This Article interprets the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, as a critical extension of Derrick Bell’s interest convergence thesis into the LGBTQ movement. Chiefly, Masterpiece reveals how the Court has been more willing to accommodate gay individuals who appear more assimilated and respectable—such as those who participated in the marriage equality decisions—than LGBTQ individuals who are less “mainstream” and whose exhibited queerness appear threatening to the heteronormative status quo. When assimilated same-sex couples sought marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, their respectable personas facilitated the alignment between their interests to marry and the Court’s interest in affirming the primacy of marriage. Masterpiece, however, demonstrates that when the litigants’ sexual identities seem less assimilated and more destabilizing to the status quo, the Court becomes much less inclined to protect them from discrimination and, in turn, reacts by reinforcing its interest to preserve the status quo—one that relies on religious freedoms to fortify heteronormativity. To push this observation further, this Article explores how such failure of interest convergence in Masterpiece extends Derrick Bell’s thesis on involuntary racial sacrifice and fortuity into the LGBTQ context—arguing that essentially Masterpiece is an example of queer sacrifice. Thus, using the appositeness of critical race thinking, this Article regards the reversal in Masterpiece as part of the contours of interest convergence, queer sacrifice, and fortuity in the LGBTQ movement. Such observations ultimately prompt this Article to propose specific liberationist strategies that the movement ought to adopt in forging ahead. 


Prof. Flanagan
Professor Rebecca Flanagan has authored an article in legal pedagogy in which she endeavors to bring some clarity to the process of preparing law students for this rapidly evolving market. Better by Design: Implementing Meaningful Change for the Next Generation of Law Students was published at 71 Me. L. Rev. 103 (2019).  Here is the abstract:

This article presents a fictitious, utopian law school to challenge the assumption that legal education has met adequately the challenges of preparing law students for an evolving profession. By presenting the utopian ideal, the author highlights how adoption of best practices in learning and cognitive sciences could transform legal education from a highly criticized institution to a dynamic, self-transforming academy designed to meet the changing needs of students and the practicing bar.
Librarian Jessica Almeida has co-authored an article on law librarianship in public service, "Hosting a Successful Transcription Party," appearing in the AALL Spectrum, March/April 2019, at 42.  The work describes how New England law librarians and the Rhode Island State Archives used a transcription event to combine service and outreach to the community.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

W. Kamau Bell solves racism.
Or at least makes some progress....


My wife and I were privileged last night to see W. Kamau Bell speak at the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford, the show part of the New Bedford Lyceum.  (Also in the audience: our friends, colleague Professor Justine Dunlap and UMass Law alumni City Councilman Hugh Dunn and attorney and radio host Marcus Ferro.)  Bell is a comedian, but at the same time, most definitely a social activist, performing through multiple media, including television, podcasts, and books.  He is most familiar to me from his Emmy-winning show on CNN, United Shades of America, which returns to the small screen with its season 4 premiere, about megachurches, on April 28 (cordcutters pay per episode).

Tongue in cheek, Bell titled his show at the Zeiterion, "The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour," a play on the title of the controversial 1994 book, The Bell Curve, by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray.  Bell's essential thesis is that race is a construct, but, nevertheless, one we have to pay attention to.  Bell aims "to dismantle racism," but not race, which he believes can be turned into a constructive concept for the good of society as a whole.  Any effort on my part to summarize Bell's approach beyond that point would be inevitably inadequate.  Suffice to say, he works toward his mission with a brilliant combination of observational hilarity, multimedia presentation, and sharing
Outside 'the Z'
about his own life and family.  He does not ask that everyone agree with him on every point, he admonishes.  Rather, he has accomplished enough if people are moved to engage in meaningful dialog about race and social justice, which surely they must be.

The Zeiterion Theatre, or "the Z," is a classic building in old, cobblestoned New Bedford, Massachusetts, opened in 1923 to host vaudeville acts.  Its fortunes have waxed and waned with the history of working-class New Bedford.  The New Bedford Lyceum is a community cultural organization that dates to the city's whaling heyday.  Founded in 1828, Lyceum lectures and events aimed for “the improvement of its members in useful knowledge and the advancement of popular education.”  The Lyceum was disbanded in 1905, but revitalized by New Bedford leaders in 2016.

Bell was a smart choice to fulfill the Lyceum's public-educational mission.  New Bedford has an unusually (for not-Boston, Massachusetts) diverse population in terms of race and economic class, leading inevitably in our trying times to social tension and painfully obvious stratification.  City leaders—such as Councilman Dunn and UMass Law alumna Mali Lim, city coordinator for community education—work mightily to keep the peace, and, moreover, turn tension and diversity into productive community identity.  Bell's lecture at the Z was preceded by four public screenings and discussions in New Bedford and the surrounding area, one at UMass Dartmouth, each reflecting on a theme from Bell's CNN work.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Restless Algerian youth see Bouteflika resign

Algiers, from the Place des Martyrs
In January, I was in and out of sport shops on the main commercial drag, rue Didouche Mouradin, in Algiers, Algeria, when I noticed a group of rough-around-the-edges, Arabic-speaking young men who seemed to be in and out of the same shops.  I mentally upped my "security threat level," watching the guys a little more closely than I was looking at the merch.  At one point, we were all sandwiched in the same small store, to the point that it would be socially awkward not to acknowledge that we'd taken notice of one another.

Turned out we were in and out of the same shops only because we were all looking at the European football kits.  (Always on the lookout for discounted last-season ManC gear.)  Given the opportunity of tight environs, the guys in fact were eager to strike up a conversation and find out who the pale foreigner was.  They confirmed something I had seen repeatedly by that point in my travel in Algeria:  More than their elders, young people's English is good, they are up to speed on global politics, and they want to know why they don't have the same social and economic security and opportunity that they see young people enjoying in Europe, just across the Mediterranean.

A Bouteflika banner flies opposite Le Grande Post.
The fellows were eager to tell me what European football clubs they followed, and what towns they were from and how they lived their lives in Algeria.  They also were eager to tell me about Algerian politics—though hushed their voices when they said that the status quo needs to change, and the older generation's tight grip on leadership needs to give way.  Outside from the city streets, one could look up in any direction to see billboards and banners bearing the smiling face of Algeria's cult-of-personality president since 1999, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

When I came home and people asked about Algeria, I often said: it's teetering on the point of a major transition—which is going to happen one way or another, peacefully, or by popular uprising—because the young-adult cohort, now irreversibly integrated into the world by our globalized information technology, are not content with stalled development and socioeconomic marginalization.

Downtown Algiers, Le Grande Poste at middle left
Naturally as protestors took to the streets in recent weeks in Algiers, I've been thinking a lot about my fellow football supporters.  I see the flag-waving crowds filling the streets around the Old Post Office and wonder whether the guys are there, sporting their favorite kits behind their green-and-white flags.  Now Bouteflika has stepped down, and the government is effectively back in military hands.  The military has a mixed record, at once supporting popular demands for progressive leadership and having a limited patience with protests in the streets.

I hope my fellows are OK, and Algeria can deliver the opportunity that they deserve.  Maybe one day I'll see them in the stands at Santiago BernabĂ©u.

Me on the street at the celebration of the Berber new year