Monthly Archives: January 2003

Racial Preference Reconsidered

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When assessing the merits of affirmative action in education, consider this bit of insight from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journal: “I pay the schoolmaster, but ’tis the schoolboys that educate my son.”

In all of the legal wrangling that marks the debate over affirmative action, starting with the addition of the Equal Protection clause to the 14th Amendment in 1868 and leading, most recently, to scrutiny of the University of Michigan’s race-based admissions policy, the learning that goes on outside of the classroom gets little attention.

There’s the lecture hall and the dining hall. Diversity 101. Two students weigh in on how affirmative action is shaping their education, their experience, and their expectations of life beyond the classroom.


Scott Palmer, senior legal fellow, Harvard University Civil Rights Project and counsel, Nixon, Peabody, LLP

Kristin Johnson, third year law student, University of Michigan

Ashlie Warnick, third year law student, University of Michigan

Keeping Up with Bill T. Jones

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Bill T. Jones hides nothing. The choreographer has gained fame and notoriety for baring his soul in dances about what it’s like to be a black man, a gay man, and a man who’s lost his life and dance partner to AIDS.

He has also danced naked on the stage. It gets your attention. These days Bill T. Jones is generally keeping his clothes on, but still finding new ways to make audiences look at and love the human body and the human condition.

He has always worked with dancers of all shapes and sizes. Quite different from Balanchine’s tall, long-necked ballerinas. At 50, he’s is making dance about the beauty in all of us, even those without the dancer’s physique.


Bill T. Jones, dancer, choreographer, artistic director, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

Friendly Fire

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There’s nothing friendly about friendly fire. It is every bit as deadly as enemy artillery, but it packs an extra blow, the fact that a good guy pulls the trigger. Last spring in Afghanistan, four Canadian soldiers were killed by American pilots.

Today the families of the Canadians are watching a military proceeding in Louisiana, looking for answers, and justice. But accountability is hard to find on today’s battlefield where over-stressed soldiers are fighting on multiple fronts, relying on high-tech instruments, and often receiving confusing orders through an increasingly diffuse chain of command.

Yet the military still has to answer to families with dead loved ones, and lay blame. Dodging friendly fire, battlefield accountability.


Scott Snook, retired Army Colonel, professor at Harvard Business School, and author of “Friendly Fire: The Accidental Shootdown of U.S. Black Hawks over Northern Iraq”

Larry Seaquist, retired U.S. Navy Commander, and Chairman of The Strategy Group

Politics of identity in the Promised Land

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Somewhere beyond the Israeli headlines about conflict with the Palestinians, somewhere beyond the sound of the ambulances and tanks, there’s a country of 6 million people in the final days of an election campaign.

While security concerns still dominate Israel’s political debate, a growing number of Israelis, frustrated with a lack of progress on this front, are abandoning the major parties in favor of smaller, more extreme political groups. They are debating the citizenship credentials of the ultra-Orthodox, re-examining divisions between the rich and poor, and what it means to be an Israeli and a Jew.

As much as it is a return to old class and religious divisions, it is also a debate about what Israel will become. Part two of our series on the Israeli election looks beyond Labor and Likud.


Ari Shavit, a political columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz

Dr. Amram Melitz, a member of Shas and a legal adviser to the Shas school system

MK Tommy Lapid, chairman of ‘Shinui’ party.

Ronald Reagan in Retrospect

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People like Ronald Reagan. They always have. Republicans especially, but Democrats, too. And in the 14 years since America’s 40th president left office, admirers have christened a Washington airport, a Cincinnati highway, a California courthouse, an Illinois middle school, and an aircraft carrier in his name.

Their aim is to have Ronald Reagan replace Alexander Hamilton on the 10 dollar bill, and to have monuments to the Gipper in every single one of America’s 3,066 counties. That’s a lot of tribute for a man whose legacy as president is still being weighed.

From the triumphs of the Cold War to the scandal of Iran Contra, the enduring appeal and the evolving legacy of President Ronald Reagan.


Peter Wallison, author, “Ronald Reagan: The Power of Conviction and the Success of His Presidency”

James Patterson, professor emeritus and political historian, Brown University

Pro Choice 30 Years after Roe v. Wade

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For three decades, Kate Michelman has been on the front lines of the abortion debate in America. In 1970, she was a young mother of three when her husband abandoned her, leaving her pregnant, jobless, and scared.

In those days before Roe v. Wade, Michelman had an abortion, and then vowed to spend her life fighting for women’s reproductive rights.

Since 1985, Michelman has led America’s most powerful pro-choice lobby group. Now, she says, a whole generation of young people has no idea what life was like before the Supreme Court ruling, or how their freedom to choose is threatened today.

She’s says she’s gearing up for the biggest fight of her life, trying to keep the Republicans from outlawing abortion.


Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America

Bird Brains

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“Bird brain.” It’s a favorite playground insult. A synonym for stupid. But there’s something you may not know about the brains of hummingbirds, songbirds, and parrots. These birds can do something only a few other species — namely whales and dolphins, bats and human beings — can do. They can learn to make new sounds.

Other animals can woof, mew, quack, or coo. But only hummingbirds and a few other species can imitate the new sounds they’ve heard.

Unlocking the mysteries of the hummingbird’s brain is part of the life’s work of a scientist named Erich Jarvis, whose own story has some personal triumphs worthy of singing about.


Erich Jarvis, assistant professor of neurobiology, Duke University.

The Pro-Life View: 30 Years After Roe v. Wade

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More than 30 years ago, when the arguments were being made in the case of Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart asked how one should decide if a fetus is a person. Is it a legal question, he asked, or a constitutional question, a medical question, a philosophical question, or a religious question? Today, after 30 years of protests, legislation, and court battles there is still precious little agreement in America in the search for answers to any of those questions.

Now, with the Republicans firmly in control in Washington, both sides are getting ready for what they say is the most critical moment in the fight over abortion rights since the ruling back in 1973.


Teresa Wagner, editor of the forthcoming book, “Back to the Drawing Board:The Future of the Pro-Life Movement”, former policy and legal analyst for the Family Research Council.

Chinese Dissident Xu Wenli

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After years of living in a tiny Chinese prison cell, Xu Wenli is finally tasting freedom.

Mr. Xu first went to prison in 1981, convicted of printing an unauthorized political journal. He remained there for 12 years. After his release, he returned to his pro-democracy activities and was jailed again in 1998 for trying to establish an opposition party. He was supposed to be locked up for 13 years, but this past Christmas Eve he was released and sent into exile in the United States.

Mr. Xu says now that he is in the West, he plans to study, to find ways to bring democracy to China. Democracy is not just a political system he says, “It’s a way of life, essential as bread, air and water.”


Xu Wenli.

The State of Palestinian Leadership

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Exactly one week from now, Palestinians were supposed to go to the polls. Last month, however, Yasser Arafat announced that elections would be delayed indefinitely.

These are complicated times for all Palestinian leaders. Arafat, their official president, is an official pariah as far as America and Israel are concerned. Many say that elections and other reforms can’t go ahead under Israeli control of Palestinian major cities.

But others on the inside claim that there is much that can and should be done, right now. They call for leaders to restrain militant groups, rewrite the constitution, and prepare for that time — after the Israeli elections and perhaps after a war with Iraq — when peace again becomes a priority in the Middle East.


Daoud Kuttab, director of the Institute for Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah