Jeff’s Ride for Human Rights

Haim Watzman

When I met Jeff Heller during my first week at Duke University in 1974, I had little idea of who I was, where I was going, or even what I wanted to major in. Jeff had it all planned out-he was on his way to law school. But it was clear from the start that he wasn’t like the other pre-law and pre-med students, most of whom were interested mostly in the large incomes those professions promised to provide.

Jeff was a man of principle and remained one through three years at Duke and another three years at Chicago Law School. Yes, he followed the usual post-law school path by getting a job at a high-powered law firm, but it was clear to me that he wouldn’t last long in that environment. He soon left to start up his own practice. Sometimes law firm attrition can be high in particular law sectors as lawyers may feel like they are not being utilized enough or they discover a different law path in the opposite direction, whichever it is, law firms need to be able to connect with their employees, otherwise, they will leave for greener pastures as Jeff did.

“Practice” would perhaps be an exaggeration, because he spent most of his time and efforts for the next three decades working for a pittance, or just as often nothing at all, defending refugees who fled persecution and death. These people arrived in the United States and then found themselves in jail, threatened with deportation, facing an Immigration Service that refused to listen, refused to believe their stories, and refused to provide them with fundamental due process.

Read more

African Notes: Animal Activism, Instinctive Apathy

Gershom Gorenberg

Above us, two eagles fought: One swooped ahead, the other caught up and dove, the two of the them locked together, plunged, let go, and flew again. “They’re fighting about territory,” said Brad, our guide. “One has entered the other’s territory, and is being warned to leave.”

Elephants emerged from the trees into open grassland near the river bank, a line of dark beasts, moving silently in the late afternoon light. We sat, awed, in the small open truck on a dirt road through the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Brad explained the cushioning of their feet, which allows them to move like apparitions through the bush. He pointed out at a small elephant and said it was a young male. “They reach sexual maturity when they’re 12-13, like humans,” he said. “Then his mother will force him out of the herd, which will be quite traumatic for him.” For the next 10 years, Brad said, the young bull will live on its own. Then it will start fighting the older bulls for breeding rights.

Elephants, Brad said, are very emotional creatures. “They don’t like death at all. When one dies, the others try to lift her up.” The elephant population in the reserve is rising, he said, and eventually will have to be “culled.” The experts say that whole families have to be “culled.” They’ve learned experience: When only adults were “culled,” the young ones were traumatized. They were much more aggressive, attacking humans more willingly. Some mature bulls had to be brought in from elsewhere, and after a very long time were able to impose order.

At dusk, three rhinoceroses – mother, father and little half-ton child – ambled onto the dirt road in front of us. They like the heat rising from the packed dirt of the road, Brad said. The mother’s long lower horn and shorter upper horn were both curved and sharp. The father’s upper horn was short and dull, apparently broken off in a fight with another male. The females’ horns stay complete, Brad said, because they don’t fight each other. No, said someone in our party of four, they just gossip viciously about each other for many years. Eventually, as Brad moved our truck inch by inch closer, the rhinos rambled back into the trees.

We didn’t see any lions or leopards. Brad had warned us not to expect any. The big predatory cats are elusive. If I heard him right, he also said that they are not bothered by seeing death. They see it all the time. They create it.

The big beasts remind you of the beauty of creation and of its cruelty. They fight over territory, and expel intruders. The males fight over females. The females choose the winners of battle, the powerful and overbearing, who will mate and wander back into the bush. There is a reason we call certain behavior “beastly.”

Read more

Finance Minister to Expel Workers, Escape in Flying Saucer

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On is preparing a plan to rid Israel of all illegal immigrants within five years, Ha’aretz reports. The story did not state that Bar-On will then escape Israel in a flying saucer piloted by three-eyed green men, but it could have. Bar-On has about as much chance of ending illegal economic immigration to Israel as he does of the flying-saucer get-away.

As the excellent Hebrew blog Laissez Passer, devoted to immigration and refugee issues, notes today, 8.5% of the Israeli workforce now consists either of labor immigrants and Palestinians from the occupied territories. With drastic efforts, the government may reduce that number temporarily, and then it will bounce back.

Economic immigration is the other side of globalization. We can produce clothes more cheaply some place and ship it here. We cannot, however, ship our backyards to China to be gardened

Read more