October 27, 1831

There is undoubtedly a limit to the exertions of an advocate for his client. He has a right, it is his bounden duty, to do every thing which his client might honestly do, and to do it with all the effect which any exercise of skill, talent, or knowledge of his own may be able to produce. But the advocate has no right, nor is it his duty, to do that for his client which his client in foro conscientiae has no right to do for himself; as, for a gross example, to put in evidence a forged deed or will, knowing it to be so forged. As to mere confounding of witnesses by skilful cross-examination, I own I am not disposed to be very strict. The whole thing is perfectly well understood on all hands, and it is little more in general than a sort of cudgel-playing between the counsel and the witness, in which, I speak with submission to you, I think I have seen the witness have the best of it as often as his assailant. It is of the utmost importance in the administration of justice that knowledge and intellectual power should be as far as possible equalized between the crown and the prisoner, or plaintiff and defendant. Hence especially arises the necessity for an order of advocates,—men whose duty it ought to be to know what the law allows and disallows; but whose interests should be wholly indifferent as to the persons or characters of their clients. If a certain latitude in examining witnesses is, as experience seems to have shown, a necessary mean towards the evisceration of the truth of matters of fact, I have no doubt, as a moralist, in saying, that such latitude within the bounds, now existing is justifiable. We must be content with a certain quantum in this life, especially in matters of public cognizance; the necessities of society demand it; we must not be righteous overmuch, or wise overmuch; and, as an old father says, in what vein may there not be a plethora, when the Scripture tells us that there may under circumstances be too much of virtue and of wisdom?

Still I think that, upon the whole, the advocate is placed in a position unfavourable to his moral being, and, indeed, to his intellect also, in its higher powers. Therefore I would recommend an advocate to devote a part of his leisure time to some study of the metaphysics of the mind, or metaphysics of theology; something, I mean, which shall call forth all his powers, and centre his wishes in the investigation of truth alone, without reference to a side to be supported. No studies give such a power of distinguishing as metaphysical, and in their natural and unperverted tendency they are ennobling and exalting. Some such studies are wanted to counteract the operation of legal studies and practice, which sharpen, indeed, but, like a grinding-stone, narrow whilst they sharpen.

From Table Talk, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (and Henry Nelson Coleridge).
May 22, 2012 · Law, Quotations · (No comments)

To justify their campaign, ed reformers repeat, mantra-like, that U.S. students are trailing far behind their peers in other nations, that U.S. public schools are failing. The claims are specious. Two of the three major international tests—the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the Trends in International Math and Science Study—break down student scores according to the poverty rate in each school. The tests are given every five years. The most recent results (2006) showed the following: students in U.S. schools where the poverty rate was less than 10 percent ranked first in reading, first in science, and third in math. When the poverty rate was 10 percent to 25 percent, U.S. students still ranked first in reading and science. But as the poverty rate rose still higher, students ranked lower and lower. Twenty percent of all U.S. schools have poverty rates over 75 percent. The average ranking of American students reflects this. The problem is not public schools; it is poverty.

-Joanne Barkan

March 26, 2011 · Education, Government · (No comments)

It’s been almost a year since I posted the first of my grandfather’s letters and I still haven’t posted any of the rest. I still plan to write them out in English and post them, however late. In the meantime, I have video.

I just had several hours of old 8mm video digitized (in 1080P!). Some is from Argentina, and as early as 1966 or 1967, and some is from California in the early 1970s. Tonight I put two videos on Vimeo, since they are mentioned in the first letter from my grandfather and part of their contents described in it.

You can watch them here if you like, but fuller descriptions are on Vimeo.

My grandfather comes to the U.S.: Argentina to San Francisco, 1968 from Robert Pollack on Vimeo.

My grandfather comes to the U.S., 1968, Part II from Robert Pollack on Vimeo.

January 22, 2011 · Changes, Genealogy, Video · 1 comment

The iBooks app for iPad and iPhone is now a great place to keep a library of books in PDF, but some folks have been complaining on Twitter that getting the books onto the device is not particularly convenient. Using iTunes to transfer them is probably not worth the hassle. Emailing them to yourself works. But this is better:

  1. If you don’t use DropBox, sign up for a free account. It’s great. If you sign up by following this link, we’ll both get some extra storage space. It’s worth it, even if you’re not trying to add PDFs to iBooks.
  2. In your DropBox folder, create a folder for PDF books (or documents of whatever sort). Put your books in there. This is a fine place to store them, since you can keep access to them on your desktop but won’t lose them even if your computer dies.
  3. Download the free (and excellent) DropBox app on your iPad or iPhone, and link it to your account.
  4. In the DropBox app, navigate to the folder you created in step 2, open a PDF, tap the “send this to another app” icon (it looks like an arrow coming out of a box), and select iBooks.

And you’re done.

January 18, 2011 · Technology · (No comments)

A good police dog has not only a large vocabulary but also extraordinary social skills. He understands many forms of human culture and has his being within them. He can be taken to the scene of a liquor-store robbery and asked to search, with the handler trusting that he won’t molest the customers or other police officers or the clerk behind the counter. He knows what belongs and what doesn’t, sharing our community and our xenophobia as well. He can take down a criminal who is attacking his handler on Monday and on Tuesday play with the patients at the children’s hospital. These dogs, then, are glorious, but for anyone familiar with working dogs they are not surprising, any more than your pet dog is surprising in his or her ability to distinguish between your friends and strangers.

But someone might say that a dog’s courtesy with guests is surprising, or that it ought at least to be remarked on that such profound connections between two species can happen at all. (It should be surprising, perhaps, that we can talk, and, of course, some philosophers have been surprised.)

Consider, for example, what happens when you train a wolf, or what happens at least when I train a wolf. The wolf, or coyote, may sit, heel, stay, come when called and so forth. But a wolf doesn’t respect our language, and his behavior can be accounted for pretty well with a stimulus-response model, from our point of view if not from the wolf’s. The wolf may also become fond of me in some fashion or another, but I can’t use him as a guard dog. Not only will he not distinguish particularly between family, criminals and guests, he will not have the courage of a good dog, the courage that springs from the dog’s commitments to the forms and significance of our domestic virtues. The wolf’s xenophobia remains his own. With other wolves he may, of course, be respectful, noble, courageous and courteous. The wolf has wolfish social skills, but he has no human social skills, which is why we say that a wolf is a wild animal. And since human beings have for all practical purposes no wolfish social skills, the wolf regards the human being as a wild animal, and the wolf is correct. He doesn’t trust us, with perfectly good reason.

From Adam’s Task: Calling Animals by Name, by Vicki Hearne. (And I’m reminded somewhat of Wes Anderson’s take on The Fantastic Mr. Fox.)

November 26, 2010 · Culture, Nature, Philosophy · (No comments)