In Support of the Humanities

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Higher Education, Political Processes & Rhetoric, PublicLeave a comment» on In Support of the Humanities

The seal of the National Endowment for the Humanities showing an eagle holding both arrows and an olive branch in its claws.Given the Trump Administration’s denunciations of various Americans and numerous manufactured crises, we might easily overlook its attack on the humanities.  For the third consecutive year, the Trump Administration has proposed closing down the National Endowment for the Humanities.  It has also proposed major cuts for the National Archives Administration and the complete elimination of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

The justifications for these kinds of cuts are predictable.  The endangered programs are said to be too costly, although the projected savings of only $28 million for National Endowment grants is not even a drop in the bucket compared to military and defense spending.  More generally, supporters of the cuts are prepared to echo the public’s growing skepticism about the value of the humanities, particularly because they purportedly do not result in marketable skills.

What we really need, some might insist, is more funding for STEM programs or, at least, a greater commitment to programs that develop roll-up-your-sleeves practical approaches to problem-solving.  These are the types of programs, it is claimed, that best prepare people for life and especially for work and employment in the context of the proverbial market economy.

Holding to the side the fact that STEM and skills funding already greatly exceed grants for teaching and research in the humanities, denigrators of the humanities overlook what might be gained from teaching and learning in such disciplines as art, classics, foreign languages, history, literature, music, philosophy, and religion.  Each of these disciplines in its own way invites us to reflect on the most fundamental of questions:  What does it mean to be human? Continue reading “In Support of the Humanities”

Five Lessons Democratic Presidential Candidates Might Learn from Tony Evers’ Victory

Posted on Categories Political Processes & Rhetoric, PublicLeave a comment» on Five Lessons Democratic Presidential Candidates Might Learn from Tony Evers’ Victory

After what happened in Wisconsin in 2016, you can bet the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates won’t forget about the Badger state in 2020. Donald Trump’s narrow victory here played a key role in his stunning victory, and most political observers believe the president will need to win Wisconsin again to secure a second term.

But if what’s past is prologue, Democrats might want to remember not just what happened in Wisconsin in 2016, but what happened two years later, when Democrat Tony Evers defeated Republican Governor Scott Walker in a race that was decided by fewer than 30,000 votes. Let me explain. Continue reading “Five Lessons Democratic Presidential Candidates Might Learn from Tony Evers’ Victory”

Israel Reflections–Final Thoughts…Leave with More Questions

Posted on Categories International Law & Diplomacy, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Religion & Law, UncategorizedLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections–Final Thoughts…Leave with More Questions

Most of this blog post is from my colleagues Alex Lemann and Rebecca Blemberg who joined Natalie Fleury (our fabulous DR program coordinator) and me on the trip. It was such a delight to have them with us on this great and educational adventure. And, as they note, we are all likely returning with more questions rather than less. Here is one last group pic:

About 40 law students pose in casual clothes with the green hills of Israel in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

It is hard to believe that a month has gone by since we returned from Israel. On one hand, the experience was so intense and meaningful that it feels like it just ended. On the other hand, it was so far outside our normal experience that it immediately felt foreign, such that looking back now it almost feels like it was all a dream.

We have all had time to rest and reflect since we got home, and we even got the chance to gather socially for a potluck dinner. Seeing everyone again has been a great joy; there is a special bond between us now that we hope will be lasting. Initially, we wondered what it would be like to travel with 40 students. To our delight, we were warmly received by students and welcomed into serious conversations, joyful silliness, and everything in between. (We are grateful we got to travel with such wonderful students.)

One thing that has been particularly interesting upon our return has been following the news from Israel. Many students have been sending articles on current events to our (still vibrant!) group chat. Much of the news from the Middle East has a new immediacy that it lacked before our visit. We also feel informed and aware of the issues in a much deeper way than we were before. Reading that the Trump administration recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights mere days after being there ourselves, for instance, was almost surreal. And Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection, a week after he promised to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has given us all a lot to think about.

Alex: I still haven’t been able to shake something we heard on our very first night in Israel, from Dr. Alick Isaacs. Dr. Isaacs is the co-director of Siach Shalom, which works to create a dialogue about peace that builds on a foundation of deep respect for and understanding of the fervently-held religious beliefs of people on both sides. This type of emphasis feels very foreign to us as Americans, something Michael Karayanni, Dean of the faculty of law at Hebrew University, echoed on our very last day. To many Americans, the problem of peace between Israel and Palestine (and in the region more generally) can seem like an interesting puzzle, one whose solution lies in figuring out how to fit the pieces together (or perhaps divide them up) in just the right way. Dr. Isaacs suggested that to people of faith, the Holy Land cannot simply be divided up. It is as if, he said, two people found a Torah (a bible scroll) at the same time. Cutting the Torah in half is simply unthinkable; another way to share must be found.

Rebecca: The question that stays with me also came up at Dr. Isaacs’ talk, after he gave a powerful account of people meeting together after an act of violence and finding empathy for one another. Student Shayla Sanders asked how peacemakers can bring that deep empathy we experience when we interact as individuals into more large-scale political questions that consider group interests. That question stayed with me when we heard Adam Waddell from EcoPeace speak about sharing resources and social space and “being human with one another” despite differences. I thought about it again when Genevieve Begue from the Shutafot Coalition for Economic Equality spoke to us at Juha’s Guesthouse in Jisr al Zarqa and stated that sharing personal and even painful experiences bridged some cultural divides and helped create trust needed for a social business seeking to empower impoverished women and children.  Again it came up at Kuchinate, a refugee women’s collective, in Jaffa. Refugees shared their personal stories with our group, and I will never again think about political questions concerning refugees and status without remembering these two brave women.

Where thoughts like these lead us is open to interpretation. One benefit of understanding a problem more deeply is that easy answers are no longer satisfying. At the very least we all feel that we all understand so much more than we did when we left, not only about Israel but maybe also about the human condition.

We can’t resist closing with a big Thank You to Professors Andrea Schneider and Natalie Fleury for all the work they put into this incredible class trip!

And thanks to all of our students for their wonderful reflections and our blog readers for their attention–feel free to reach out with any comments or questions. We hope that the blogs gave you a sense of the range of our trip and what we learned. What you might not have picked up is how much fun this was (for me too!) and how much I enjoyed. With much appreciation to Marquette Law School and our extra trip funders for supporting this!

Cross-posted at Indisputably.org .

Israel Reflections 2019–Feminism & Women

Posted on Categories Feminism, International Law & Diplomacy, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Religion & Law, UncategorizedLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections 2019–Feminism & Women

Our last chunk of speakers were strong women who work to make Israel more inclusive and safer. Kylie Owens shared her thoughts on our first speaker.

Professor Halperin-Kaddari is a renowned expert in family law, who earned both her L.L.M. and J.S.D. from Yale Law School. Our visit with Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, a family law professor from Bar-Ilan University, was truly enlightening. Israel has a unique system of law that regulates marriage, divorce, and child custody issues. Under this system, mainly governed by religious courts, women can be oppressed, the courts completely prevent interfaith marriage, and domestic abuse can be overlooked. Professor Halperin-Kaddari discussed some of these problems in detail and offered a look at the current state of the opposition and efforts to change the system to allow the possibility of civil marriages in Israel.

Our second speaker Keren Greenblatt immediately connected to all of us  when she started speaking having fun when you go out at night.  She then talked about her organization Layla Tov (Hebrew for good night), which organizes bars and clubs to combat harassment.   (News story here.Continue reading “Israel Reflections 2019–Feminism & Women”

Israel Reflections 2019 — Shared Society Continued!

Posted on Categories International Law & Diplomacy, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Religion & Law, UncategorizedLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections 2019 — Shared Society Continued!

Great to see so many of us at the ABA conference this past week!  We will have blogs soon about conference sessions and lessons…And, in the meantime, here’s another from Israel:

Our work out for the week was held at Budo for Peace (BFP). BFP is an innovative non-profit educational organization based in Israel that uses the ethical values of traditional martial arts to empower children while promoting social harmony and peace in the Middle East. Since its establishment 14 years ago, BFP’s programs have impacted thousands of children from diverse cultural, religious, ethnic and socio-economic origins throughout Israel and the Middle East, including refugees in Lesvos, Greece.

A line of young martial arts students wearing black uniforms stand with a line of adults inside of a gynmasium.Yamilett Lopez said “When our group arrived, we got to practice some Budo with the children as well as learn about the Budo for Peace’s goals of advocating co-existence and dialogue, empowering females, fostering immigrant communities, and engaging at risk youth. Overall, it was amazing to see a sports organization help bridge a divide among communities.”  This was both a ton of fun and hilarious!

A smiling adult in athletic clothing rests his leg on top of the shoulder of a smiling friend.We then had dinner at Juha’s Guesthouse in Jisr a Zarqa. Meaghan McTigue noted “The town is the only Arab village on the Israeli coast of the Mediterranean Sea and their guest house is an embodiment of hope in their future. The guest house is the fruits of a Jisr local Ahmed and Jewish Israeli Neta. The unlikely pair partnered with a shared vision and believe in the potential of the town and its people. The guest house serves as an economic asset to the village where guests are encouraged to explore the area and shop from local merchants.”

Cross posted at Indisputably.org .

Israel Reflections 2019—Shared Society

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Religion & LawLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections 2019—Shared Society

One key focus of our trip was all of the organizations working on shared society across groups in Israel. Our day of shared society started at Sindyanna of Galilee with a Za’atar workshop. Sindyanna of Galilee is a non-profit organization that employs Arab and Jewish women who aim to create a peaceful coexistence between the two cultures. The students were able to create their own Za’atar after hearing from employees on how they strive to create peace. (This was delicious! And all available on Amazon too…)

We then headed towards Nazareth to have lunch and see The Basilica of Annunciation. When we arrived there was a service in progress in front of the Grotto of the Annunciation. For student Margaret Spring it was one of the most breathtaking experiences she has ever had in a church. “Being at one of the most sacred Christian sites in the world while a congregation was singing is something that I will never forget.”

Our next stop was Givat Haviva. Givat Haviva is dedicated to promoting mutual responsibility, civic equality and cooperation between divided groups in Israel as the foundation for building a shared future and shared society—critical elements of a sustainable and thriving Israeli democracy. While there, we visited the divided city of Barta’a.

Student Mercy De La Rosa wrote a thoughtful self-reflection that is shared in full about her experience at Givat Haviva and how that compared to her childhood in El Paso near the Mexican at the Texas border.

 

 

Walking through the rolling green lawns of Givat Haviva, it was hard not to draw comparisons to college campuses across America with laughing students stretched out on beautiful trimmed lawns. This, however, is no idyllic American campus. Instead here Muslims and Jews strive to work together bridging differences and embracing commonalities. Clearly underneath the beautiful surface there has been a lot of hard work in community building and deep difficult conversations. Armed with cookies, coffee, and a razor-sharp witted Welsh guide we trekked to the Barta’a….Driving up to the town, I never imagined what was in wait for me. Driving up Lydia shared a heartbreaking story of how she often felt like a person divided, split between friendships on what at first glance seems like diametrically opposed sides. In hindsight, that story should have prepared me for the painfully wonderful parallels that would be presented between my home city of El Paso Texas and Barta’a. As we walked through the city, I was vaguely reminded of downtown El Paso until we hit the market area where all I could see was memories of Juarez. Granted it has been at this point almost 12 years since I have been to Juarez, but to me it felt like someone had just put up Arabic signs instead of ones in Spanish. As we ascended into the mountains to better see the divide, it was like looking out from Scenic Drive where you can see the connection of the two downtowns. From that viewpoint almost seamlessly merging into one another. On closer examination you can see the border but looking at it from a distance it is more a feeling than articulable distinguishing characteristics….This small town shook me to my core, serving as a stark reminder that though we may travel far from home sometimes it is the familiar that frightens and motivates us the most.

[Cross-posted at Indisputably.]

Garry Wills to Speak at Marquette Law School

Posted on Categories Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Legal History, Marquette Law School, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Garry Wills to Speak at Marquette Law School
Author Garry Wills dressed in a suit and tie speaks at a public event.
Author Garry Wills

On April 18 at 4 pm Pulitzer Prize winning author Garry Wills will speak at the Marquette University Law School.  The topic of his talk is “Does Democracy Protect Human Rights? Constitution vs. Plebiscite.”

The event is sponsored by a grant from the UW Stout’s Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation.

Garry Wills is Professor Emeritus of history and a cultural historian at Northwestern University. His many books include studies of George Washington, Richard Nixon, the Kennedy family, Ronald Reagan, and religion in America. His 1992 book, “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America,” won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. Wills won the 1979 Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 1978 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction for his 1978 book, “Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.” Wills has also been awarded the National Humanities Medal, and he was inducted as a laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln. His most recent book is “What The Qur’an Meant and Why It Matters.”

The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested.

 

Israel Reflections 2019 Day Two: Masada, the Dead Sea and Dialogue

Posted on Categories International Law & Diplomacy, Negotiation, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Religion & Law, UncategorizedLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections 2019 Day Two: Masada, the Dead Sea and Dialogue

About twenty young people in casual dress surround a Marquette University flag at Masada in Israel.On Day 2 of our magical trip to Israel we visited Masada and the Dead Sea. As student Alexander Hensley put it “[It] was the perfect way to kick off this trip.” (Let me note to all travelers, a day in the sun outside is quintessential jetlag recovery!)

The story of Masada is one that flies under the radar for many non-Jewish people but is fascinating to learn its history. The isolated plateau that is Masada has a history of being a fortress, built into a palace by Herod and then used as the last holdout by the Jews fighting the Romans in 70 A.D.  Today it is one of Israel’s largest tourist attractions not only for its history but the beauty of it rising up in the desert.  Alex Hensley “absolutely loved standing over the Dead Sea and looking down at the ramp that the Romans built.” Our tour guide Yoav expertly guided the group across the fortress in record time. As student Cole Altman so aptly stated “To be able to share its beauty and joy with the entire group was absolutely incredible.”

We then headed toward the Dead Sea to float. Many of the students decided to “farm” the mineral rich mud to rub all over their bodies. The mud makes your skin extremely smooth and floating was definitely a highlight of the trip for many students.

Law students in bathing suits stand and wave in the waters of the Dead Sea.

After a rest, we then started our more academic visits on Saturday evening.  We heard from Dr. Alick Isaacs  who is the Co-director of Siach Shalom (translated as Talking Peace).   This is an organization that works to create dialog about peace using religion rather than arguing to take the religion out of the conflict and tries to include and welcome religious leaders who have been dissenting voice against previous peace efforts inside Israel. Dr. Isaacs is the author of A Prophetic Peace: Judaism, Religion, and Politics which recounts his experience as a combat soldier in the Second Lebanon War.  Dr. Issacs’  talk included snippets of how he made “Aliyah” (The immigration process for Jew’s to move to Israel) after dealing with anti-Semitism in England growing up, and discussed Judaism as an ethnic identity.  (Here is a link to a talk he gave several years ago) Student Van Donkersgoed explained that hearing Dr. Isaacs speak “Helped form the context for much of the trip, and also helped clarify my perception of Jewish culture and the State of Israel.”

Cross-posted at Indisputably.org

Israel Reflections 2019: Let’s Do This!

Posted on Categories International Law & Diplomacy, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Religion & Law, UncategorizedLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections 2019: Let’s Do This!

Hi blogosphere–it is my pleasure to start us off with blogging about this year’s spring break trip. We had 40, yes 40!, law students on this trip with four faculty. And it was a great group.

Per usual, we started off on Friday night with a lookout over Jerusalem where we all celebrated our safe and easy arrival.

View overlooking the City of Jerusalum with homes and low buildings in the distance and a large golden domed building. Then we visited the Western Wall to see the prayers at Shabbat. This can be both beautiful and unsettling, as men and women are separated. And, as we had arrived on International Women’s Day, the difference was even more notable.

As student Madison Mears noted, “The [smaller] women’s side was crowded and silent; the only noise filling the women’s area came from the prayers, songs, and chants of the men from the other side of the fence…To experience that dichotomy of expression and repression, left me walking away with more questions…” This impact of religion and gender continued to be a theme throughout the week as was the fact that we often left with more questions than when we came.

The Israeli flag flies in a courtyard outside of a brick building. Student Micaela Bear also noted how the separation of the sexes led to questions by her classmates but also wrote, “As a Jewish student at a Jesuit law school, it was hard to fathom that my cohorts of different religions would feel such a special connection to a Jewish holy site. It filled my hear with warmth to experience the start of Shabbos with Jews of all denominations, but also to share this experience with my classmates.”

I felt the same way–what a privilege to be able to share a place I love with a new group of students!

Cross-posted at Indisputably.org

The Nanny State

Posted on Categories Business Regulation, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Popular Culture & Law, PublicLeave a comment» on The Nanny State

Ideological rhetoric not only lionizes heroes but also deplores villains.  It tells us what we should like and what we should hate.  Neoliberal ideologues, in this regard, typically praise deregulation, privatization, and the market economy while condemning the “nanny state” as especially villainous.  If we reflect critically on the nanny-state rhetoric, we might be able to limit the persuasiveness of one of neoliberalism’s most-favored notions and in the process recognize who is most powerful in our society.

For starters, casting anything related to a nanny in a negative light is curious.  Popular culture, after all, includes an abundance of perky, resourceful, and indomitable nannies, all of whom are devoted to the well-being of those under their care.  Thoughts of Mary Poppins, Fraulein Maria in “The Sound of Music,” and Nanny McPhee win a warm spot in just about everybody’s hearts.  I always enjoyed the resourcefulness of Fran Fine, who was played by the feisty Fran Drescher in the popular 1990s sitcom “The Nanny,” while my favorite boyhood nanny was the large anthropomorphic dog Nana in the Peter Pan stories.  She wore a charming bonnet, built castles out of toy blocks, and lovingly made the beds for the Darling children.

How and why does the image of a nanny become a negative one for the neoliberal ideologue? Continue reading “The Nanny State”

Gratitude for Intellectual Diversity

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Student Contributor, Wisconsin Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Gratitude for Intellectual Diversity

Red and blue Rock'em-Sock'em Robots facing offI believe intellectual diversity is vital to the development of the legal community—in law school and in practice. I also believe our individual mindsets—as lawyers, professors, or law students—aggregate and have an outsized effect on the direction of Wisconsin’s and America’s laws. Finally, in the vein of free-market competition, I believe we should each endeavor to challenge our mindsets and step out of any conscious or unconscious echo chambers of legal thought. With these ideas in mind, let’s spice things up with a rather normative post.

Let’s start with a somewhat lighthearted contention. Math is not evil, mysterious, or to be avoided at all costs. On the contrary, we should challenge ourselves to use it appropriately and effectively when an opportunity arises to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good “lawyers are bad at math” joke, but maybe we shouldn’t perpetuate that mindset. If you can use a standard normal distribution or some Bureau of Labor Statistics data to make a point, go for it. Words may be our specialty, but numbers should be in the tool bag as well.

That was a good warm up, so let’s try something a little more controversial. Continue reading “Gratitude for Intellectual Diversity”

On Originalism and the First Amendment

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on On Originalism and the First Amendment
Political cartoon from 1888 showing little demons with names like "garbled News," "Paid Puffery," and "Boastful Lies" emerging from the mouth of a printing press.
The Evil Spirits of the Modern Daily Press (Puck Magazine 1888)

On October 18, 2018, I participated in a presentation entitled “Free Speech and Originalist Jurisprudence” at the University of Wisconsin-Stout along with Professor Alan Bigel (UW-Lacrosse).  The event was part of Free Speech Week sponsored by the Center for Study of Institutions and Innovation.  What follows is a copy of my prepared remarks.

“In December 1783, George Washington gave a toast at a dinner celebrating the formal dissolution of the Revolutionary Army.  He did not use his toast to offer a tribute to individual liberty.  Nor did he sing the praises of limited government.  Instead, his toast was a simple expression of what he hoped the future would bring to our new nation. He raised his glass and he said: “Competent powers to Congress for general purposes.”

I wrote that in a 2012 blog post, and I received an immediate and angry response from a lawyer who denied that George Washington ever said such a thing, and who rejected the idea that George Washington ever supported a powerful national government.  This well documented historical fact did not fit within the reader’s understanding of the original intent of our U.S. Constitution — and therefore the reader simply could not believe that the quotation could be accurate.

The response of this reader reflects the fact that, for many persons, originalism is primarily a culturally expressive theory – a theory that expresses a culture that reflects conservative political views, moral traditionalism, and a tendency towards libertarianism. (Jamal Greene, Nathaniel Persily & Stephen Ansolabehere, “Profiling Originalism,” 111 COLUMBIA L. REV. 356, 400-402 (2011)).

However, originalism as a theory was not invented in order to provide a vehicle for cultural expression.  Instead, the goal of originalism is to provide an interpretive method for objectively defining the meaning of the U.S. Constitution.

Originalism is an interpretive theory that understands a legal text to retain the meaning it had at the moment when it was enacted or ratified, until such time as the law is amended or repealed. (Chris Cooke, “Textualism is Not Strict Constructionism is Not Originalism,“leastdangerousblog.com, July 8, 2018).  It holds that the discoverable public meaning of the U.S. Constitution at the time of its initial adoption should be regarded as authoritative for purposes of later constitutional interpretation. (Keith Whittington, “Originalism: A Critical Introduction,” 82 FORDHAM L. REV. 375, 377 (2013)).

There is an abundant historical record supporting the conclusion that the United States Constitution was promoted by a core group of political leaders in order to strengthen the national government, and that the Constitution was understood by the people during the ratification debate to do just that.

In rejecting this historical record, the lawyer who responded to my blog post revealed that he was more devoted to his favored myth of original meaning than he was to objectively weighing the available evidence of actual meaning. Continue reading “On Originalism and the First Amendment”