Friday, January 16, 2004

My father, the winter sports inventor
So here I am, in South Florida, and while you up North are taking extra special care of protruding body parts, I am running around in a short sleeved sweater and sandals. Yes, it's cold at night, if you can consider fifty-five degrees cold; but the days are balmy and breezy, and...


As I was saying... I do have memories of winters past. When we arrived in the states we went to live in Chicago. With our usual timing, we had moved north right before a series of bitter cold winters old timers still talk about. Often my friends and I would walk home from school between two high white walls made by the city's clearing the streets and the neighbors' clearing their yards. We learned to dress in layers and protect our ears and the crowns of our heads. Everyone wore mittens rather than gloves and scarfs across our noses to "warn the air" before it reached our lungs. Mothers made soups and stews for dinner, and hot chocolate would be waiting as we traipsed in from making snow angels on the basement steps.

My father worked for an engineering firm in the Loop, catty-corner from the Sears Tower. He remembers standing on the train platform with several dozen people, all doing a shuffle-and stomp to keep warm. He swears the Riverdance folk stole their routines!

One very cold winter evening, my father was heading for the train. He decided to walk along the Sears Tower wall and take advantage of the protection if offered from the murderous wind. Now, for those of you who have never experienced it, the building's base is irregular, and the sidewalk angles down quite a bit from one side street to the other.

So my father starts down, holding his briefcase in one hand and keeping his hat jammed down on his head with the other. Behind him, someone was pushing his way through the crowd. Dad moved aside to let him pass...and came down on a patch of ice hidden by the new snow. His feet went out from under him and he went down on his briefcase, which started downhill at a fast clip, gathering speed as it went. He had invented downhill snow surfing!

Panic set in as he realized he would be flung into traffic as he reached the intersection. People tried to stop him by catching his outflung hands, to no avail. Finally, as he was reaching the end of the sidewalk, a policeman, anchored firmly by one arm to the lamppost, snagged his elbow as he went by. Dad made several full turns in the snow around the cop and the lamppost, until he came to a complete stop, face down in a pile of slushy brown snow.

Ah yes, I remember it well. Did I mention that this ungrateful daughter laughed until the tears froze on her face? Of course, first I made sure he was all right....

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The Best of America
By way of Brad DeLong, the words of Robert H. Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States at the Nuremberg Trials:

The Agreement of London, whether it originates or merely records, at all events marks a transition in international law which roughly corresponds to that in the evolution of local law when men ceased to punish crime by "hue and cry" and began to let reason and inquiry govern punishment. The society of nations has emerged from the primitive "hue and cry," the law of "catch and kill." It seeks to apply sanctions to enforce international law, but to guide their application by evidence, law, and reason instead of outcry...

As a military tribunal, this Tribunal is a continuation of the war effort of the Allied nations. As an International Tribunal, it is not bound by the procedural and substantive refinements of our respective judicial or constitutional systems, nor will its rulings introduce precedents into any country's internal system of civil justice. As an International Military Tribunal, it rises above the provincial and transient and seeks guidance not only from international law but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence which are assumptions of civilization and which long have found embodiment in the codes of all nations.

Of one thing we may be sure. The future will never have to ask, with misgiving, what could the Nazis have said in their favor. History will know that whatever could be said, they were allowed to say. They have been given the kind of a Trial which they, in the days of their pomp and power, never gave to any man.

But fairness is not weakness. The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of sour strength. The Prosecution's case, at its close, seemed inherently unassailable because it rested so heavily on German documents of unquestioned authenticity. But it was the weeks upon weeks of pecking at this case, by one after another of the defendants, that has demonstrated its true strength. The fact is that the testimony of the defendants has removed any doubt of guilt which, because of the extraordinary nature and magnitude of these crimes, may have existed before they spoke. They have helped write their own judgment of condemnation...

Let me emphasize one cardinal point. The United States has no interest which would be advanced by the conviction of any defendant if we have not proved him guilty on at least one of the Counts charged against him in the Indictment. Any result that the calm and critical judgment of posterity would pronounce unjust would not be a victory for any of the countries associated in this Prosecution....

Mr. Jackson--actually Justice Jackson, as he was at the time a Justice of the Supreme Court--then proceeds to set out the case in detail, carefully butressed by references to German documents and eyewitness testimony.

The Nuremberg trials remain the gold standard of international law governing war. Jackson and his colleagues from European nations established standards defining aggressive war, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. In addition, at Nuremberg, the precedent was established that individuals could be found personally responsible for committing such crimes. It was not a defense that "I was ordered by Hitler to do it". If such crimes were knowingly committed, a defendant could be found guilty of their commission.

America, in the form of Robert Jackson, created the greatest model for civilized behavior among nations ever devised: a way of acting against aggresor nations that would withstand legal, moral, and ethical criticism. This is the model this current administration has seen fit to walk away from.

Please go read about Mr. Jackson. He's the best of an America that, sadly, seems to be passing away.

As an addendum: a certain William Rehnquist once clerked for Jackson. As someone once said: compare and contrast.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Is it Worth the Price?
By way of Billmon, the real reason wny this administration may want a Mars mission.

Christ on a Harley.

Most of you know that I am a dedicated From the moment I sat in a darkened room watching an illegal transmission from the United States and watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon I've wanted space. From the first time I ever read The Martian Chronicles*, I've wanted Mars. I believe that we are meant to go out there, that if there is a Deity, S/He is inviting us out to see what we can see.

But Halliburton?

* And yes, I know there are no canals, or great cities, or books that can be played, or magnetic dust to use for cleaning. But if you don't understand why that book would put the fire into the heart of a sick child, I pity you.

Academia, Blogging, and Linking
Peter wonders why I don't link to a number of the certified stars of blogtopia (ysctp!), and asks me to explain my linking policy.

The secret, Peter, is that there isn't one.

I started out as a reader of blogs; never intended to write one. When I set up my blog, I simply linked to the people I was reading.

My blog-parents, if there are such, are Jay and Jane at Classless Warfare. Notice, I start out with a foot on both camps (same as in my real life, but that's a story for another day), but there's no denying I am a liberal, and as such tend to link to mostly liberal blogs and a few conservatives I consider centrists--a designation, alas, fast disappearing, or so it seems to me.

I look for people that are knowledgeable, fascinating, passionate about their topic, have a nasty-edged sense of humor, and who can put up a good fight without slinging four-letter words (the great failure of the verbal imagination). I may not always or even sometimes agree with them, but, by golly, they can write.

There's a subset of these: the University professors. They can be any and all of the things I listed above. BUT...

One of the awful things about spending one's professional life in a subordinate position in academia--and don't let anyone fool you, librarians are often in a subordinate position, no matter what their credentials--is that you see professors in a vastly different way than students or admirers do. You see the scintillating, hypnotic man who guided you through the intricacies of economics--I see the nincompoop who decided to turn over a seventeen page reading list on the third week of the semester with a request for rush-reserve. You see the writer of marvelous tomes on your favorite topic--I see the dingdong who wanted me to fire a clerk because he would not let her take a quarter-of-a-million dollar rare book home for the weekend. You see a legend in his own time--I see the obnoxious Godling who expects immediate satisfaction of his every want, no matter how obstreperous.

So, if I am reading a blog, and the tone begins to resemble one of my own personal Awful Archetypes, I don't link. I don't read. I don't visit. Nothing. Nada. Niente.

I hope that answers your question.