Jun 202016
 

In light of today’s Fourth Amendment-eroding Supreme Court decision in Utah v. Streif, and Justice Sotomayor’s scathing indictment of it:

The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting
you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent.

I thought I would repost something I wrote in law school about an earlier Supreme Court decision, Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court, that ran roughshod over the idea that people might have a constitutional right — and need — to refuse to identify themselves to the police. Given, as Justice Sotomayor notes, that such an identification can lead to other incursions on one’s liberty I think it’s worth remembering some of the earlier jurisprudence that has brought us to where we are with this case today.

(Originally posted 3/23/04. I’ve edited the writing slightly now to make sure the point I was trying to make back then are more clearly conveyed now, but I have not otherwise edited it for substance. While today I would tend to frame my legal analysis slightly differently, I think the rough take of a 1L still captures valid concerns that today’s ruling exemplifies and exacerbates.)
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Jun 082016
 

Seeing news that Israel has named a street after Chiune Sugihara, I thought I’d repost what I wrote about him in law school:

There was another excellent show on PBS this evening on Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania who wrote visas for thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II. He suffered for his actions personally afterwards – his foreign career effectively destroyed as a punishment (a true shame, given his remarkable linguistic and cultural acclimation skills) – but today thousands and thousands of people and their descendants are alive because of his sacrifice, to risk sanction from his superiors and write all those visas.

The show was also interesting to me on another point: examining the relationship between the Jews and the Japanese. In particular it explained a comment I had heard in my family that previously had no explanation.

I’ve written before about my great-grandmother’s brothers who had escaped Russia in the early 1900s by running east to China. There they settled in Harbin, a city full of expatriate Europeans, including many other Jews. They thrived there, even through World War II. And that was the comment – that the Japanese treated the Jews very well. Unfortunately during that period the Japanese army treated the Chinese people very poorly, which is why there was such confused marveling over why my relatives had no problems themselves.

There seems to be two explanations: one, that there were industrialists in Japan who actively wanted to settle Jews in China, to develop industry using their skills and education. In fact, at one point the Japanese, at the urging of these industrialists, offered to Jewish leaders that it would accept all the European Jewish refugees, with or without passports, so that they could settle in Japanese territory. This offer, however, was unfortunately declined by an American Jewish leader in the misplaced hope that if the European Jews had no viable options left, Roosevelt would step in and finally let them come to the United States and England would let them enter Palestine. Sadly neither of these things came to pass. Boatloads of refugees were turned back at Palestine, many to end up immediately shipped off to concentration camps upon return to Europe, and largely at the urging of anti-Semites in the State Department, America’s borders stayed shut as well.

The other explanation stems from a conversation between Japanese officials, by then allied with the Germans, and a Jewish leader representing the large population of Lithuanian refugees who by now were temporarily settled in Tokyo. Their numbers and the irregularities surrounding their immigration were cause of some concern to the Japanese officials, and Germany was heavily lobbying for Japan to adopt its policies of Jewish extermination. So the Japanese officials asked the Jewish leaders why they should not abide by the Germans’ wishes.

“Because we are all Asians,” was the response. You from the eastern side in Japan, and we from the western in [Israel]. Besides, when the Germans talk about the population they aspire to have, it is all Aryan. It’s all about blonde hair and blue eyes, which the Japanese don’t have. Believe us, they said, when they’re done with us they’ll come for you next.

Whether this explanation was the reason or not, the Japanese chose to resist the Germans’ urgings and let the refugees stay. And Mr. Sugihara was eventually vindicated by history, being honored by the survivors, the State of Israel, and also his native Japan. In Israel, like Schindler, he is known as a righteous person, and more people should know of his deeds.

Originally posted May 5, 2005.  I then had a sad update about his widow here.

Jun 072016
 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gone back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth some more about whom I would vote for in the California primary today. It is in many ways an awful choice to have to make, choosing between two such supremely qualified candidates. On the other hand, it is also the best possible choice to have to make, to have one’s electoral cup runneth over with two such excellent choices. Given the way they complement, and the way they differ, I wish they were the principle choice for the general election in November.

But I have to make a choice today, and I’ve chosen to go with Clinton. It’s hard because there is so much I like about Sanders: I like that he has forced a public dialog about wealth distribution in the United States and championed having the fundamental underpinnings of modern American life – in particular health and college education – available to all. I like that he has been able to move the needle as far as he has as an outsider, and, indeed, that he has challenged the status quo that tends to benefit political insiders at the expense of important policy values carried by outsiders. I like him as a man, and as a refreshingly ordinary man for whom intense attention does not appear to have caused him to internalize his own celebrity. And, as a Jewish person in America, I like that he has been able to open doors I was not convinced were open to other Jewish people aspiring to serve the country in such an office.

Identity politics are not the basis by which I generally like to make political decisions, however. Choosing the “X” candidate without any other inquiry into the candidate’s qualification is not likely to lead to good governance. And in this primary they are of little utility to me in any direct way anyway, because while on the one hand I’m Jewish, on the other hand I’m also a woman. Either way my purely demographic interests are advanced regardless of which candidate wins.

At the same time, one of the reasons diversity is an important value is because everyone is both shaped and inherently limited by their own lived experience. Problems and solutions will go unseen when they fall into blindspots, which is why it is good to have a diversity of perspectives represented. And I was starting to see a problem.
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Mar 132016
 

When I was a young reader I used to read Nancy Drew mysteries. And they scared me: I couldn’t take the suspense, so I often found myself flipping to the back of the book, checking out the last page, just to know that somehow the good guys were going to come through ok. Once I knew that, I could enjoy letting the rest of the book unfold.

I find myself in this election wishing I could flip to the back of the book just to know if it’s true that everything will be ok. Continue reading »

Feb 152016
 

Mass transit in the Bay Area is run by extremely local jurisdictions and only barely coordinated with the mass transit systems of any other local jurisdiction anyone might like to travel to. Which, as they say, is no way to run a railroad… Or a bus and ferry system, as is the case of Golden Gate Transit, which operates both the Golden Gate Bridge and mass transit in Marin County (the land to the north that the Golden Gate Bridge connects San Francisco to).

Since that’s where I live I have a vested interest in seeing that it is as usable a mass transit system as possible. While I do own a car, I don’t want to have to drive it, especially not to the city if I have cheaper and more environmentally friendly options, like mass transit, available.

Unfortunately, while the mass transit offerings are essentially tolerable for commuting in and out of the city from where I live during basic commute hours, they aren’t great for less routine schedules that might require commuting earlier or, especially, later. If I want to stay in the city after 6:30pm, my transit options rapidly dry up, and they are extremely shriveled if I want to stay after 8:00pm.

Happily the Golden Gate Transit District is considering expanding service, at least somewhat, so I submitted a comment largely in support of the proposed changes. I’m increasingly recognizing how important it is for public agencies to have input from the public — they are hungry for it — to underpin their actions, and how much you can affect public administration in ways you care about by submitting it.

And having taken the trouble to do that, I thought I’d also share what I submitted on my blog, because surely that’s what blogs are for…

I note in posting it that I did slightly misstate the options for evening commuting: there is a 7:30ish and 8pm-ish #4 bus that runs locally through Sausalito, but there is still a gap between 6:30 and 7:30 and then too long to wait after 8. I also did not really focus on options connecting Sausalito to the north. To be honest, it’s not a direction I tend to look to travel via mass transit, in part because I have a car and in part because I tend to regard options as tedious and inefficient. But I do note that there are quite a few service workers in Sausalito who need to take transit to the more affordable neighborhoods in the north where they live, and these trips should be expeditious for them as well.

The comment begins below:
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Jan 082016
 

In my third year of law school I did a semester abroad in Germany. It was a poignant experience, particularly as someone Jewish, to go invest in a place that so recently had been so unimaginably evil to people like me. The school itself (Bucerius Law School) was not unmindful of this history. For instance, at one point it took us on a fieldtrip to Neuengamme, a concentration camp in a nearby Hamburg suburb. And at another point it put on a screening of Jud Süß, one of the Nazi propaganda movies from the 1930s.

What with recent discussion about Mein Kampf and Anne Frank’s Diary entering the public domain it seemed like a good occasion to revisit what I wrote back then about the movie. It seems particularly important given similar demonization I’m hearing in Germany and beyond about the Muslims in their midst.

Below is the original blog post I wrote in November 2005, and below that the comment the post received, which shows that this sort of extreme, xenophobic hate is not entirely in our past. But it’s only by freely talking about that past that we can keep it from plaguing our future.
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Aug 262015
 

The Washington Post has a letter today signed by various generals opposing the Iran nuclear deal.  But as “Emptywheel” noted on Twitter:

That guy? John Poindexter, who was implicated in the Iran-Contra affair for having helped supply arms to Iran in the 1980s.

Which made me think today was a good day to post the Iran Contra Nursery Rhyme I wrote way back in middle school, so we could better remember why it is we currently find ourselves in this diplomatic mess with an over-armed country we helped make over-armed:
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Jun 042015
 

Barbie may have said that math is hard, but Barbie was wrong.  With good teachers it isn’t very hard at all, and my high school calculus teacher was a great teacher.

Anyway, at the end of the year she asked all of us to write a letter to the incoming class next year so that they’d have some idea of what to expect and some suggestions for them as to how to best get through the class.  However, needing to do everything in my own idiom, as per usual… instead of a letter, my friend Amanda and I decided to write a poem instead.  The teacher liked it so much she had us record it, and I understand that she played it for incoming classes for several years to come.

It was also one of the first things I’d ever posted on the web, on my first site that seems to no longer be live.  But clearly other people like it, and it’s been interesting to see evidence of other math teachers using it in their classes.  So to help make our lovely poem available to generations of calculus students to come, I thought I’d cross-post it here.  Enjoy! Continue reading »

Jul 132014
 

A few things happened today: Germany won the World Cup, and I ended up in several unsettling conversations about the current contretemps between Israel and Hamas, which somehow led to a German friend saying something to the extent that the Holocaust was 70 years ago and it was time for Jews to get over their sense of victimhood.

I won’t debate that point here right now (I’ve already railed in unconstructive astonishment on social media…) but I decided that the convergence of events today warranted republishing this post I wrote in law school, during the semester when I studied in Germany.

I’m really enjoying my time here in Germany. I’m learning a lot of interesting law, meeting lots of really nice people, learning the language… I’m really glad I came, and as an American student I’m being made to feel very welcome at the school, in the city, and in the country.

But I’m not just an American. I’m also Jewish, and it’s hard to think about being Jewish in Germany without stumbling upon the elephant in the room: what happened 60-70 years ago. It’s the history we’ve all inherited – but to what end? I know relatives and acquaintances who refuse to set foot in Germany, not out of any sense of personal fear (although there probably is some distrust that the virulent anti-Semitism is truly a thing of the past) but more out of a lingering anger for those horrible crimes perpetuated against so many people, and particularly against people like us.

I can’t dismiss their feelings: they are a reasonable reaction to an incomprehensibly horrible tragedy that I would not want to minimize, nor encourage others to minimize. But at the same time, it’s completely unintuitive to me to dig my heels in and continue to punish a nation of strangers. On the contrary, it seems that the complete opposite is called for. Hatred festers in the distrust unfamiliarity breeds. The thing to do, it has always seemed to me, is to take affirmative steps to not be strangers anymore. Continue reading »