Friday, May 19, 2006

Re: Summers

----- Original Message -----

To: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2006 3:59 PM
Subject: Re: Summers

Dear Dean Velvel:

When I attended high school in South Carolina I wrote a paper arguing that the Vietnam War was a failure even on its own terms. I was too young to know how horrible the war really had been and only remembered the clips from the CBS evening news. This paper earned me the lowest mark I had received in my junior year English class but caught the attention of a history professor at the Citadel who praised it as better than most of his freshman papers. I first started criticising the US simply on the grounds that it came nowhere near its espoused ideals and that many of its supposedly most patriotic leaders did not even adhere to these ideals. Due to having been removed from school politics by a micro-version of recent Florida voting SOP, I started writing for the school paper, finding that even my conservative constitutionalism was too much for the administration. I stumbled onto what was then the Yale CRCL Law Review, Mieklejohn and a whole pile of issues which made me want to be a solicitor or even trial counsel. It took me a while to get disabused of this fantasy. Now I work for chartered accountants, tax advisors and lawyers but primarily by translating writs, contracts and reports. It is probably something to which I am much more suited than the legal profession per se.

The reason I elaborate is that I went to the MSL website and was quite impressed by the mission statement (I wonder if there are medical schools with the same principles.)
What is your success rate in training advocates and not just widening the channel or increasing the throughput of upward mobility? I do not phrase this to be aggressive or condescending. Rather I have just found in all my years of contact with legal counsel (esp. in such basic areas as housing and credit and contract law) that it is enormously difficult to find lawyers who are able to think through their client's problem proactively or to use a word almost contradictory to everything I know about the classical professions (law, medicine, church), empowering their clients to defend the penumbra of rights and not just the narrow issue of the writ. I lived in NYC five years and was appalled at the paucity of counsel in the administrative law and housing law sectors where the agencies' bias in favour of property owners is an open secret. Even admitting that case by case litigation is a terribly inadequate substitute for land reform, the helplessness of people even with counsel and nominally favourable legislative dispensation was disconcerting to say the least. One of the lawyers I knew then and-- although the wife of an old college friend-- was woefully inadequate as tenant counsel (but working in this sector)-- has since been elevated to the bench. I cannot say whether this is just the quid pro quo.

I have worked and still work with many corporate lawyers and this is a species of its own.
Why do I submit this longer comment? I read or interpolated your position as to how the US Supreme Court avoided the constitutionality of the Viet Nam war. The same thing happened here with Yugoslavia. The secret machinations of our foreign office leading to our government's recognition of Croatian independence were instrumental in starting the war in Yugoslavia (almost like the secret treaty which led to the Great War after an assassination in Bosnia). Then a case was brought before the Federal Constitutional Court alleging that the use of German troops violated the law restricting such deployment to defence against territorial invasion and/ or in NATO territory. The Court simply deferred to the foreign office although it could not have been clearer that the deployment of Bundeswehr troops was unlawful. The parliament did not even have to remedy the defect by enabling legislation.

Now our troops are in Afghanistan and the pretender to the Presidency of your United States is campaigning to bring us into what could well be the third world war it was alleged the Soviets would cause.

Much of this is possible because the US still has a very effective propaganda machine and has not yet exhausted all its PR capital in Europe. Even the idea that the denim trousers obsessively worn here might be supplied at such attractive prices by virtue of the US Marines in Haiti, does not dampen the belief that the US fundamentally intends to do good. Almost no advocate seems willing or equipped to challenge and impeach this reputation on the witness stand and under oath. After the war ended here, many of the opponents of the NSDAP regime insisted that the judges and lawyers be given due penalties for not even using the laws available to protect liberty. What will the Bar have to say when and if the war criminals ruling the US are called to account? Will there be counsel courageous enough to take what bit of law remains for the normal citizen and use it in the fight for liberty?

It would be nice to think that MSL also has this spirit and remit-- definitely lacking in the HLS.
Thank you for your indulgence with respect to my digression.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas

Am 10.05.2006 um 19:23 schrieb Dean Lawrence R. Velvel:


Dear Dr. Wilkinson:

Thanks.

Larry Velvel

----- Original Message -----

From: Thomas
To: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2006 12:01 PM
Subject: Re: Summers

Dear Dean Velvel:

Certainly. It is in fact standard since I do have a fair amount of confidential e-mail traffic. But please feel free to use whatever might be an appropriate contribution to the discussion.

Kind regards

Thomas

Am 10.05.2006 um 17:29 schrieb Dean Lawrence R. Velvel:

May 10, 2006

Dear Dr. Wilkinson:

Thanks for the email. Your points are distinctly worth pondering, and are all too often true, I think.

I notice that, in what looks like a standard addendum to the email, you say the email is confidential. Because of the importance of what you say, however, I would very much like permission to post it on my blog. Would it be alright with you if I were to do so?

Sincerely yours,

Lawrence Velvel

----- Original Message -----

From: Thomas
To: velvel@mslaw.edu
Sent: Sunday, May 07, 2006 6:29 PM
Subject: Summers

Dear Dean Velvel:

At an earlier age, when I thought Harvard and Yale were the beacons of American intellectual life-- instead of the "Kaderschmieds" for US empire-- I would have been surprised and even worried about the integrity of the President and Fellows and all those would be American "dons".

But a university which gives such privilege to war criminals like Dr Kissinger and does not find something reprehensible in Summers argument that the Third World should be freely polluted because of the low per capita value of such environmental waste disposal and the competitive advantage of such countries as low cost toxic dumps-- made in all seriousness while Mr Summers was in Washington-- gives even a one-time New Englander pause. Prior to Summers invidious remarks about the capability of women, Harvard was scarcely known for its positive social policies (whether it be the attitude toward unionisation or its investment portfolio).
Harvard is and has long been a keystone in the Washington-New York- Cambridge "axis" providing the ideological haven for some of the most tainted of official intellectuals. That has long been its role. It would be nice to think that Mr Summers' opportunity to "do the honourable thing" was an indication of moral uplifting within the premier IV league walls. Most probably this has just been an indication that New England taste (notorious for its hypocrisy) has been offended by the odours of a seriously dyspeptic government. The pressure for Mr Summers' departure is more like swallowing a packet of Rollaids to treat a duodenal ulcer.

Nonetheless you are right that Harvard's action or inaction will have an effect on the academic profession. In the tradition of Massachusetts Bay "scarlet letters" may be issued to all those unfortunate enough not to enjoy enough patronage. This kind of discipline will set an example for lesser institutions about how to deal with embarrassing or undesirable breaches of the already cut-throat publish and/ or perish code.

Maybe the answer lies in abandoning the worship of Harvard and accepting that it is just another business-- like those who fund it-- with no greater virtues or vices than the other great businesses that dominate US American life.

Many people in my country swear that we need "elite universities" like Harvard here to compete for brains and research money. They do not understand what Harvard is (or charitably speaking, what it has become). Aside from the truly pleasant campus and libraries, I would not wish anyone a "Harvard" if they are not already saddled with one.

If the affaire Summers were to be an opportunity for Harvard, it would take a long look at what intellectual responsibility means when a country's government has gone beserk. It would go back to a meaningful tradition: emollit mores nec sinit esse feros-- taming the state's violence with humanist values instead of legitimating it. Then aqua -"Veritas" might mean something again on the banks of the Charles.

Thank you for your most interesting article.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen/ Cordialement/ Cordiali saluti/

Yours sincerely,

Patrick

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